Five-Minute Friday: Gift

(I wrote this for my other blog , “WordWaltzer,” but then decided to post it here too because the topic is still Alzheimer’s. Many of my readers already know this story.)

It’s Friday and time for Kate Motang’s 5-minute topic. Write, without stopping for five minutes. I did, but then I wrote 5 more and 5 more….

It was two years ago that the best gift of all arrived on my doorstep. I had been struggling with Bo and his Alzheimer’s alone for the past seven years — years that slid down the long exhausting slope toward Bo’s final stages, when I could no longer leave him alone in the house, couldn’t go for groceries or have lunch with a friend, afraid that he would wander, would hurt himself, would be afraid  ….. ? I didn’t know.

And then I found Jon, a caregiver who would come to the house and take care of Bo — and of me. A calm, mild-mannered young man with care in his eyes, in his voice, and in his hands. I watched him with Bo and knew he was the right person. But then his home burned, and he and his wife and two children, 7 and 10, were homeless, living in a church until they could find somewhere to stay. No insurance and stretched by two businesses, they weren’t soon going to buy or re-build.

As Jon worked with Bo, and I came to know him, the idea formed in my brain. It was possible. They could stay here in the basement until they found something else. The basement is finished, the house is large, we could do this. They could be comfortable; I would have company.

So one day when Jon and I were in the basement, I said the words: “You know, Jon. I think we could do this. You could move your family here for a few months. We could make it work.” He smiled and we began looking around, figuring out what would be needed, where each person could sleep. Later, his wife told me that Jon had joked with her, “I don’t know where you’re going to live, but I’ll be with Nancy and Bo.”

And so  they moved in, followed by Rubbermaid bins full of their few saved belongings. One box per person. All of the children’s toys had been charred– all of Victoria’s Barbie dolls, all of Justin’s stuffed toys. They brought donated towels, sheets and clothes. We found a bed for the parents; the children got a blow-up mattress , and there were already a table, desk, TV and chairs in the basement.

In my mind, I pictured taking turns cooking, them eating at their table together, Bo and me upstairs. We could alternate bathrooms and share the back patio. But that’s not how it worked. We just naturally blended into a family right away. As they moved away from their fast-food meals and homework done in the ice cream store late at night, we fell into a routine that has existed for almost two years now. We cook and eat together, watch TV and play games together, share the routines of cleaning, cooking, using showers, shopping. Celebrate birthdays and holidays together.

The children accept Bo for himself, even when he takes food from their plate or when Jon has to change him or he does something very un-adultlike. They are kind and accepting of whatever happens, their manners and gentleness always present. I have a family, Bo has care — great care — and this is the greatest gift I could have received.

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10 Responses to Five-Minute Friday: Gift

  1. charlotte guarino says:

    Very well said, Nancy. We have the pleasure of spending enough time at your home playing cards once or twice a week to really get to know Jon and his family. It is obvious the kids have grown to love you…especially Nancy Camp, as does Jon and Adrianna. You have become “one big happy family”…The Angels were working overtime 2 years ago. You have all been blessed.

  2. Mary Smith says:

    I didn’t really know the whole story. I’ve been able to put bits and pieces together reading your blog posts but didn’t know how Jon and family came to be living in your basement. It sounds like it has worked out amazingly well for all of you.

  3. Pat Stokes says:

    This is a “feel good” story.

  4. Scarlett79 says:

    Families are an amazing part of being part of… That gives me some hope, as I am alway trying to add to my family. The bigger the better. Love ya, Nancy ❤

  5. Elaine says:

    Actually this story is totally amazing. Just goes to prove … there is a God! He was watching out for you and for Jon and his family. I have always said, God isn’t really found in buildings like churches. God doesn’t really care about if we attend church. God cares how we treat each other. God is found in nature and in people. This gift has a divine hand in it. Thank you for sharing.

  6. boomer98053 says:

    What a fabulous life lesson for the children as well. Your arrangement sounds absolutely heaven-sent!

  7. Thank you…. it’s an amazing, unexpected turn of events

  8. Annamarie says:

    Yes, a blessing for you and Bo to have this beautiful family with you–and a blessing for them to have you, and Emma! Now, it’s time to write a story about how she came into your life.

  9. mame08 says:

    As a new follower of your blog, I have been awed by your patience, strength, wisdom and good judgement. In this entry I see that you have also been incredibly flexible and willing, in trying a residential arrangement that has worked well, but that could have been really tough. My guess is that you have all made big efforts to cooperate and share, which is no small thing. Very inspiring. I learned about your blog from my sister, who writes Caregiving in the Forest.

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