Saturday, March 20, 2010

No! Its Not Your Birthday?

Which is exactly what Bill exclaimed/said/asked this morning. You know, it was one of those statement, question, confused looks. Which is why we no longer remember birthdays. I remember, but he can't so we don't remember (celebrate) birthdays. If we do not remember them, there is less stress on him to remember them.

Irony. Perhaps because I am a very LARGE party planner. I LUV making any occasion into an event, have/had the best tools to do it with, and over the years put on the best soirees.

Bill was turning 50 back in the day. The planning was furthered along by close friends and family. It was to be a great event in a beautiful suburban hotel ballroom, catered and complete with a Marilyn Monroe impersonator and live band.

We awoke that morning to an event alright ~ ice, sleet and snow. And lots of it.

My co-conspirator, immediate neighbor and BFF Cathy McKay rang me up at daybreak with “Hey, we need to talk”. That meant this thing was about to take a turn. Cathy is always the voice of real reason to my large and in charge ideas. (Like the emerald green laminate counter tops at Chase Creek in the mid 90’s)

Within 30 minutes we had let Willie Bill in on the plans for this huge and surprise birthday party. Hundreds of people were called, some called off and we packed him and the Skipper Dee into the hunting Suburban for their trek to the hotel to pick up food that was already prepared.

We were moving the party to the game room out back. If you get there by foot or crook, get there. And, for those who did, it was a great time.

Fast forward to his 64th birthday this year, it was just another day. Insomuch that I/we have always made a very large deal out of birthdays and special holidays I took them off the table. For most of my adult life Christmas was up and the house bogged down with decorations earlier than most. Easter, Valentines Day, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras and oh my Halloween complete with dead people in the garden tubs. It didn’t matter, we did it up and always did it up grand.

These parties and events were attended by hundreds ~ they were not to be missed. So, here is the irony:  One of the first issues that struck Bill with the Alzheimer’s were days and dates. He can no longer make sense of which day, which month, which season. Does he know when the house payment is due, the car payment, the light bill, phone bill, water, cable, insurance bills are due?  Does he remember the day, month, year we were married, kids or grandchildren born, our anniversary, his own birthday? Absolutely not.

Therefore today, my birthday, he will not remember. And, if brought to his attention he will become ashamed that he did not recall it and that will send him into a tailspin of emotions including feelings of depression and worthlessness we witness in him. Those feelings turn into anger, then more depression, then he becomes despondent, then he begins to pout, then he is miserable all day. By nightfall, he will have forgotten what made him so miserable in the first place but by then, he has made us all miserable with his misery.

Not writing on this to complain, just stating the facts. Because of this we make very little of his own birthday. I never mention our anniversary. If we are no longer really whooping it up for his special day then we will no longer whoop it up for mine or any of the older kids. That has all been scaled back to a minimum which may only include a call on the phone.

You find over time with Alzheimer’s that making life easier for the patient makes life easier for the caretakers.

It was important today that I document this. I suspect that there will be many more events that need to be celebrated throughout the years of our lives but for now, they will be placed on hold.

Hey, everyday is an event here. And, each and everyday can be considered a holiday and special occasion as he is still with us, enjoying what he can when he can. With the three-year anniversary coming up on his initial diagnosis, perhaps that is the day we celebrate as he was never expected to still be living in the home with us by his doctors at this stage in the game.

I believe that with his outstanding physical health and quality of life, Bill will be with us for many birthdays, mine and his. Today, I celebrate his life and for my birthday request for all who know us is to follow his blog to help create a heightened awareness of the issues surrounding Early Onset Alzheimer’s Dementia. 

He can still remember and recall that 50th birthday party we threw for him as he often can recall events from the past. However, yesterday, last week, three hours ago, 5 minutes ago....well, not so much.

We packed up a mountain of party supplies, tables, chairs, chaffing pans, serving dishes, buffet plates, etc. and sent them to Cathy’s for storage before moving. We have not given up, just given in as my energy has a more pressing priority.

I predict a good day. First day of spring, sun is out and it is warming up outside. The hot air balloons will be flying outside. Michelle and Kate are treating me to take-out Sushi and we will order a movie Bill will also enjoy watching. My family and friends will take special effort in calling or posting which is exactly what will round out this special day.

That I know they are thinking of me, thinking of us and holding us up in daily prayer is the absolute perfect gift. How lucky am I? Pretty darn fortunate, overall.

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