Jerry’s mother, bless her heart, is 90 years old and has been in a nursing home in Mississippi for 3 years. Up until this year, I’ve been able to take Jerry to visit her several times a year, but this year we haven’t gone one time. I feel so bad about it. You see, as a caregiver, not only do you get to handle your own sense of obligation, but you have to shoulder your loved one’s obligations. Jerry’s brother, who I’ve dubbed a saint, has cared for her for years and years. The times we traveled there, would be to allow Jerry to spend time with his mom and also give his brother some much needed respite. Jerry dearly loves his mother. Four years ago, Jerry and I took a cross country road trip. It took almost a month and it was our last. On the way back, we stopped in Mississippi to spend time with his mom. This was while she was still at home. I vividly remember, Jerry’s anticipation, as I drove up the driveway. When we approached, I saw his mom, with her frail body, shuffle out the front door. I watched as this big ole 6’4” vulnerable man, gently took his tiny mother in his arms and said, “Mama.” (It makes me cry.)
It’s been over one year now and we haven’t made the trip. Jerry is aware that his mother is still alive. Occasionally, he says, “I need to see my mom” (In broken Alzheimer talk.) “She must be dead.” I reassure him that she is still living and that his brother is taking care of her. We call and his brother puts the phone to her ear and we carry on a silent conversation. She can’t talk either. I hate it...hate it that I haven’t taken him. Maybe she needs to see her baby boy, even if just for a second.
Here’s the deal. When we stay in our safe zone, I can be lulled into this false sense of sanity. Now that I’ve finally gotten it into my head that Jerry’s surroundings must remain consistent, I start to think he’s doing better. In fact, improving. We connect. I say to myself, “Hey. I can handle this.” So I think, maybe, I can take him on a little road trip back to see his mom.
It doesn’t take much for me to realize that this false sense of sanity is truly that....a FALSE SENSE OF SANITY. Out of the safe zone. Out of the mind. You see, that’s what Alhzeimer disease does. It’s makes the caregiver wonder who’s the one insane. Me? Him? He? I? Maybe he’s fine. Maybe I’m the crazy one. Anyway, as soon as I have company over for dinner or bring Jerry along for lunch with a friend, it becomes clear that Jerry is NOT better. The slightest deviation or outside influence reminds me that he is NOT fine...he cannot connect. I honestly don’t know if he can handle a 2 day road trip or not. Actually, I don’t know if I can handle a 2 day road trip or not. But I feel I should.
To go or not to go. That is the question.