Monday, March 28, 2016

Sometimes emotions surprise

I didn't think I would care.

Just last week, his wife of 30-odd years and my younger daughter drove to a dementia care facility nearby and admitted my ex-husband.

He's a victim of the same horrible disease that claimed Robin Williams ... Lewy Body disease, a combination of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's.

At various birthdays and Thanksgivings, I have observed his steady decline, both in mental capacity and physical appearance. It was gut-wrenching to see this once-athletic high school coach and phys ed teacher descend into such transformation.

I can only imagine how difficult the whole process has been on his wife, my daughters and their two half-siblings, the kids of my ex and his wife. Occasionally, my daughters shared their need to vent their anger, sorrow and fear at what was happening to their dad.

It was only a few years ago, 1998 to be exact, that he and I finally put aside our bitterness and pain and buried the hatchet. It was the day of our older daughter's wedding and we agreed that there had been enough anger and that we should apologize to one another for our respective parts in the ruin that had been our marriage.

So we had some good years when we could come together, laugh and reminisce about the times before the bottom fell out. We could enjoy our grandchildren. He was a wonderful grandfather, in his glory with the little ones hew could toss into the air and savor the giggles.

Like everyone in the family, I knew the disease was rapidly claiming him. I knew it would not be long before he required 'round the clock medical and watchful care. So I wasn't surprised when the day arrived. Very sad, of course, for his wife and the kids, all grown adults and prepared for the day.

That night, knowing it was his first night in a strange place, surrounded by unfamiliar furniture, sounds and people, I thought about what must be happening in that room, I knew he was frightened. Change is difficult for patients with such a disability.

And I couldn't sleep.

My heart ached for the way his life had turned. For the lost years he should have had, the memories he lost almost daily, the steadily vanishing knowledge of the love of his wife, his children and grandchildren.

I lay awake for a very long time, worrying about how he survived that first night without the comfort of his home and the woman who loved and cared for him so faithfully for so long.

I was surprised at my own reaction.

I didn't think I would care.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Even a house can be lonely

There is something special about a house.

Many times in recent years, I've driven past the house my stepfather built for my mother and me, looking for more changes and marveling at the memories that flood through me every time.

The white fence around the yard has been gone for years, as has the flagstone walkway to the big front door. The wrought iron rail around the porch is gone too and there is a new second story and an enclosed back deck where only a concrete patio stood. I often wonder what the inside looks like, whether the massive Jersey stone fireplace Dad's friend built in the living room is still the dominant feature of the house.

Memories are mostly all good about my years in that house. And someone still loves it... fresh curtains adorn the windows and the yard is maintained well. One of these days, I'll summon up enough nerve to knock on the door, identify myself as a former resident and ask for a tour. I hope I will be welcome.

I spend a lot of time looking at houses. is one of my favorite sites and I like to scout out possible places to live if we ever decide to put our house on the market and move.

I even look at real estate in my old home town, picturing streets on which some houses sit.

When I was a junior in high school, my date and I stopped by his house for photos before the prom. It was a home filled with love. In subsequent years, his mother nurtured a spectacular garden alongside the house, complete with gazebo, in which many a local couple posed for photos after their weddings.

I remember the address of the house just like I remember my own, so when I saw it on last night, I was filled with sadness. Whoever purchased the house after that lovely family dissolved through death or distance had left it a ruin, in the hands of a bank, described as "once-loved."

I can only imagine that the garden was also a casualty.

Call me crazy, but the once-sweet white cottage with its lavish landscape, looked forlorn and broken-hearted. All vibrancy was gone and only a sad remnant of what it once was sat there in the photo.

I recalled all the days I pedaled by on my bike, hoping to catch a glimpse of the boy I loved since I was ten. All the days I wished for a big family... brothers and sisters with whom to grow up. They probably took that house for granted...their safe harbor from childhood troubles.

Now it belongs to no one. Still there is something special about a house. Even now.