This blog is part of a final exam of an elective course that I am taking on a pass/fail option. The title of this graduate level course is Extreme Care Giving 501. There are no credit hours or Continuing Education Units to earn. Nor are there any certificates or diplomas offered as an incentive for its completion.
The principals of this colloquium are my elderly parents who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and a host of other maladies and infirmities. They both are in deteriorating health and need someone to help them in their everyday affairs and this sullied business of dying with dignity. They view me, their only son, as their last great hope for a stay of execution from a nursing home and a slow death by a thousand cuts of dispassion and synthetic smiles.
My father’s name is Edward and he is 94 years old. He has Alzheimer’s disease (stage 6 of 7), prostate cancer, heart disease and glaucoma. He is semi-ambulatory, his gait is but a very slow shuffle. My mother, Sue, is 92 years old and has the beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease (stage 4) that has felled the mind and soul of her husband of 66 years. She also has heart disease, spinal arthritis, shortness of breath, moderate hearing loss and a death wish. Me? My name is Michael. I am 57. I have heart disease, COPD, gallstones, bi-polar disorder and major depression. I have had one major heart attack, two divorces, three misdemeanors and several failed suicide attempts.
Because of my mental illnesses, character flaws or sheer idiocy I have either quit or failed at almost everything I have set my hand to thus far in my life: marriages, relationships, filial obligations, parenting, careers, businesses, therapy, suicide, hobbies, friendships, religions, and a host of things that most people accomplish seemingly without effort and usually without remark. Despite my untenable resume, character flaws and the multitude of red flags waving briskly in the wind, I am their caregiver. I am their 24/7/365 live-in attendant, companion, private nurse, therapist, chauffeur, banker, concierge (and now part-time raconteur) in this house of trepidation and habitat of hope.
I know very little about blogging. To be honest, I have never even read a blog. So bear with me. I have tried my hand at journaling and keeping a diary in the past, but I lacked the self-discipline to write consistently enough to record my thoughts to be of any value literarily, therapeutically or historically.
This blog will be a chronicle of my final exam and of my parent’s struggles with their infirmities, angst, fears and mortality. My hope is that my efforts at care giving will somehow silence their unspoken disappointments in me and attenuate their anguished psychic memories of me that even their Alzheimer’s disease cannot completely erase. It is the final opportunity of the prodigal son to be successful at something.
Thus, their care is not just the topic of yet another blog; it is my life and maybe, just maybe, my redemption. It is, in essence, my final exam as their son. Pass or fail.