(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.