Mental meanderings.

Mikes final ride June 2011

For whatever reason, I decided to wipe out all 5,000+ pictures on my iPad, downloading them to my laptop for safekeeping.

But, then I decided that I wanted to have “some” pictures on my iPad, especially when it turned out that the jeweler misplaced my rings, and I needed an image to show him in order to help him find them.

So, in reorganizing, I found pictures of me and my big brother, and his funeral.  How macabre is it to keep pictures from someone’s funeral?  I don’t know how to explain it, but it was so over the top, I couldn’t do anything else.  My mother would have loved the pageantry, being a big fan of the funeral procession in, “An Imitation of Life”.  It would have killed her to bury him before her, so I’m ok with how it all came together for her to have passed first.  But, I’m still certain she would have enjoyed it if it weren’t a funeral for her eldest child.

My big brother, though, is frozen in my memory somewhere among various photos, even if he’s maybe 17 on a good day in my brain.  I cycle back and forth among this one:  (about 1963)

Mike and Jo - 1963 maybe

or this one:  (about 1970-1971) when he rode his 10-speed bike 90 miles, from MA to NH, to get to my Grandparent’s camp for the weekend:

Grandma.Granpa.Mike-1970.jpg

or this one:  (about 1990)

Mike_Jeff_Halloween

[There’s more, with my Baby Sis, but if she ever sees this blog she’ll kill me, so I am leaving those pictures unpublished.  She’s very sensitive about images].

Anyway, I’m rebuilding the pictures in the iPad of just the important ones, and I always carry a few of my family with me now that I have the iPad.  There’s no particular reason why, but it’s helpful when Auntie forgets having met certain people in the family, or doesn’t recall past events.  I also just like to see them from time to time while I’m out and about.

So, as I’m preparing for vacation, I’m very aware that my Big Brother would have been 58 this week.

I think about how much time has passed since brain cancer took him in 2011, and I know he would be happy with how things are turning out with his family despite the passage of time.

He has two sons, fine young men, and they both appear to be building lives that will see them through to a happy old age with kids of their own.  His widow, my sister-in-law, appears to have a full and busy life, while also pining for the life that they planned together.  No answers there, except the obvious one:

– 53 is too young to go.

There’s never a good time to go, of course, but my brother appeared to have used his time well on this earth, and I hope I’m living up to his example as I continue to do the same with the choices I make and the options available to me.

I’m off for another cruise at the end of the week, and I’m looking forward to spending time with my Nevada Auntie who is suffering from both frontotemporal lobe damage (a form of dementia or alzheimers), as well as COPD and a failed back (arachnoiditis).

Frontotemporal_Lobe_Damage

While the trip may have its challenging moments, I can assure you that she has NOT lost her ability to use language.  I’m hoping that traveling with my cousin and me, she can get out of her disease-imposed inertia and enjoy herself for at least a little bit.  From my point of view, her disease steals her initiative.  So, I go see her about every 3 months or so to both give her something to look forward to, as well as to monitor what’s going on, and try and help her beat back the drum of passing time and increasing debility .

There are many ways to describe Auntie’s particular mental health ailment, the closest thing that they described it as is a form of dementia or Alzheimer’s, even though the official description is clear to say that it’s not the same thing at all.

For lack of a better description, though, or better resources for how to manage her care while traveling, Alzheimer’s is the easiest label for handling her personality difficulties and inconsistencies in responses as her executive functioning has its particular dead zones.

If you haven’t seen the Glen Campbell film, “I’ll be me”, and are dealing with someone with Alzheimers, I do recommend that you try and watch it if you can bring yourself to do so.  It wasn’t sad, as I had initially feared.  But, you have to be in the right head space to not have it bring you down if you’re at all susceptible to empathetic depression.

GlenCampbell

Baby Sis recommended that folks see it earlier this year, and I put it off until tonight.  Having dealt with the journey of Alzheimer’s and dementia-related issues in my Mom’s side of the family for quite a few years, I can tell you that this particular film does a great job of illustrating how easy it is for someone to pass for normal when they have truly lost their ability to manage their lives.

While blame is never part of my response to disease-related situations, I do wonder, though, if the excesses of the 70’s and 80’s in the pre-AIDs hey day is coming home to roost in the Baby Boomer generation.  Glen is known to have had quite a cocaine / drug / alcohol problem at one point in his career, and Auntie has said that she certainly had a good time with alcohol and cocaine while she and my Uncle were running their bar in Alaska.

So many people need help with keeping their loved ones active as this series of a very terrible disease takes its toll, as there just aren’t enough resources to go around.

While I’m pretty much a fatalist, in that everything happens when it will, with no rhyme or reason, I do find that things work better if we all pitch in to help each other.  I’m very thankful that my Cousin is also able to join us on this trip, as that will help with the caregiving challenges and help both of us avoiding “hovering” while also being available in the event that Auntie needs something specific while traveling with her Senior Singles Club.

Auntie was supposed to go to Italy last year, and backed out at the last moment due to anxiety for coping with public weakness / instability.  She’s in denial about how fragile she is, and how much she needs to keep on moving in order to remain as healthy as possible.  Hopefully, with my Cousin and I there, everything will go as planned and we’ll all have a good time.

Yes, it truly takes a village to see each of us through from birth to death.

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