Missed Connections

by Jill Francis on November 18th, 2013

I did something stupid the other day and although those who know me might think I do stupid things frequently, this wasn’t one of those, “duh, I should have had a V8!” moments, this was the terrifying kind that keeps one up at night…especially if you’re the child of an Alzheimer’s patient.

Although I am a highly emotional, loud and rather dramatic person (something I used to apologize for, but have decided to embrace, since I trust The Creator knew what He was doing when He made me this way!), I do have the capacity for logic and reason, and I think the “A” in Logic on my transcripts from George Mason University, bear witness to this although the men in my life may dispute the grade!   All of this to say, that the neural pathways that connect my thoughts and give me the ability to process and reason, do function normally and are alive and well…at least that’s what I thought until November 11, 2013, when “the incident” occurred…when I missed the connection.

I showed up at a friend’s house for a training, only to realize there were no other cars in the driveway, that I was the only one there.  I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t figure out what.  “Didn’t you read the e-mail with instructions?” my friend asked.  I had, but to my horror, I realized that I hadn’t understood them, I hadn’t connected that the training was online and I had missed several signs along the way…signs that should have helped me make the connection.  My neural pathways had failed.

Grace, being what it is, allowed my “missed connection” to occur in the safety and privacy of my friend’s home and in the presence of someone who loves me, as opposed to a more public and potentially humiliating forum…this time.  But what about future moments of confusion…will they be public or private?  With friends who care about me and who understand or with strangers who will simply think I’m crazy?  And will my neural pathways kick in enough for me to go to a place of safety?  What will happen the next time?

As I drove home that night, fear and dread began to overtake me and I wondered if this was a “sign” of things to come.  Had my mom had moments like this fifteen years prior to diagnosis?  I didn’t know, but as I lay in bed that night, awake until the wee hours of the morning, allowing the fear to invade my thoughts and prohibit sleep, I wondered how many others were also awake with the same fears.  Of the 41.8 million people with dementia
(http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/dementias/detail_dementia.htm), do they each have a child, spouse, relative lying awake and wondering, “am I next?”

Our friends and loved ones, the ones who aren’t “related” to the illness, tell us not to think about it, not to “go there” and remind us that life is busy, our schedules and brains are full and hectic and it only makes sense that we’re confused at times.  And their logic is correct and well-founded and even true; but fear isn’t logical, it’s emotional, it’s powerful and at times, it’s debilitating.

So what do we do, the children, spouses and caregivers of the 41.8 million?  I can’t speak for all, but I can speak for some:  my friend, Kay Bransford of Memorybanc (http://www.memorybanc.com/events/), blogs about her experiences with two parents with dementia and she teaches people how to plan, how to gather important information and keep it safe; she uses her pain and her experiences for others.  Some attend support groups, some meet with friends for coffee and weep together.  Some yell and scream and curse the darkness (well, we’ve probably all done that, if we’re going to be honest), some go to counseling, some go to a very dark place and may or may not ever come out.  I’ve visited that place, but I refuse to stay there. 

Instead, I light a candle; I cling to the Hope that is within me.  I embrace the loud, emotional, dramatic creation that I am and I “play in the leaves” of my memories of my mother, as my brother recommends (http://suddenwonder.blogspot.com/2013/10/falling-leaves.html), ever thankful for the influence she had upon my life.  I choose Joy and Grace and the wisdom of living in the moment and enjoying today, and I try not to take tomorrow for granted.  I choose to try to pour a little bit of myself every day into the life of another; for a life lived only for myself is meaningless.  I choose to be open about my fear, knowing that hiding it can cause paralysis.  And I choose Gratitude.  For regardless of what tomorrow holds, regardless of the missed connections that may be in my future, Gratitude always trumps fear.

Posted in not categorized    Tagged with Alzheimer's, George Mason University, MemoryBanc, Sudden Wonder, Autumn Leaves, Dementia


Wanda - November 19th, 2013 at 9:45 AM
Thank you.
Lisa England - November 19th, 2013 at 4:02 PM
I absolutely adore your candor and insight. We are all "losing it" a little more every day it's just a matter of how much and fast. Being present here-now is not easy and a skill I wish to hone better in the years that hopefully come. I loved your last line especially. You continue to inspire and be inspired and that is beautiful. xo
Mary Ann Barton - November 23rd, 2013 at 1:24 PM
Jill, this is so inspiring! "I choose Gratitude. For regardless of what tomorrow holds, regardless of the missed connections that may be in my future, Gratitude always trumps fear." Amen to that. My mother died of complications of Alzheimer's nearly three years ago, the day before her 102nd birthday. She was still baking bread at 90 and walking a mile downtown and back. Yes, I am scared, thinking about what it might be like if Alzheimer's is in my future, but I choose Gratitude, too.
Jill Francis - November 23rd, 2013 at 5:04 PM
Thank you, Mary Ann, you are welcome to write me a blog and send it to jill@Graciousgoodbyes.org; I welcome your thoughts, experiences and insights.

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