Sunday, October 2, 2016

Our 12 year old Beagle Visits Daddy in Memory Care

12 years ago, Gary and I made a decision to adopt a puppy.  Well, the decision was kind of made for us by one of my well-meaning Employees who had a litter of beagles.  One look at this baby girl dog and we were hooked.  From the beginning she had a very big voice so being southern by birth, we named her Diva Gerl. 

I know the truth, even though she loves me, she was always Gary's dog or "Daddy's Girl" as he referred to her.  For years, they were best buddies.  He used to drive a BMW convertible  and in the summer she donned "doggles" and a sun hat so as to not be over exposed.  They were best friends.

They have hiked hundreds of miles together and whenever he would go on a business trip and come home, she would crawl between his legs, go belly-up and cry like a baby.  Her daddy.

I was very concerned when I knew he was going into memory care because I did not know how she would mourn.  He checked into "The Happy Place" on June 30.  Here is a picture of them on his last morning in our home.

 The following week, Diva had surgery and spent several weeks recuperating at home with a cone of shame.  She was distracted and did not seem to have any bad repercussions from his absence.  Several times she has walked around the house whining and once got on the bed and sniffed. 

I've talked to him about Diva Gerl and he always smiled and replied, "Diva Gerl".  I have thought often about taking her to visit but was not sure who it would be harder on, her or him.  As it turns out, it was harder on me.

Today as I was leaving home to go visit Gary, Diva Gerl looked at me in a longing way that I interpreted as "Take me with you."  So, I did.

As we arrived at "The Happy Place", Annie, the resident dog, greeted us and began sniffing and jumping over Diva.  Diva reacted positively and acted like she wanted to play.

I took Diva to Gary's wheelchair and said, "Diva, here is Daddy!"  She was so distracted by the dog that she had no reaction to him.  Gary did not seem to react to her either.  So, I took them in his room without Annie and closed the door.  I rolled him next to his bed and Diva seemed to recognize the bedding and jumped on his bed.  Then, it clicked for her.  She got excited and tried to get on his lap.  She whined and cried. 

I kept telling him that Diva had come to visit him and that she wanted him to touch her.  Her reaction was so sad because he was not responding.  He kept saying "Touch the Gerl" in response to my prompting.  She licked his hand and he just sat there.  He started saying "I'm sorry.  I'm sorry.  I'm sorry."  He gave no response when asked "Why?"

I couldn't take it and knew that for me, I had made a mistake.  For the 92 days that Gary has been there, I have not cried out of melancholy or sadness.  Those days of suppression hit me like a brick wall.  I felt an incredible sadness in my heart and knew I had to get myself and Diva out of there.

I took Gary out to the living area and secured his chair.  The angels (caregivers) were all taking a break at the dining table and looked at me.  I started to lose it as one of the angels got up to let me out.  By the time she entered the code on the security door, I was sobbing in her arms.  I felt so awkward.  I couldn't control the tears.  The reality that my husband doesn't know his own dog was way worse than any torment we've had so far.  I felt like a knife had gone through my body.

She held me and said, "I don't know how you do this."  I thought that today, I am not doing it very well.

I escaped from the unit and went to my car.  Diva climbed in the back and slipped out on the pavement.  Yes, she too is aging.  That realism also hurt.  I broke down in the car as I drove away toward home.  The sound coming from me must have been guttural as Diva whined. 

I realized that I was out of control and snapped myself back into shape.  I had fooled myself and bragged to others that like the Pink Floyd song, "I have become comfortably numb."  Comfortably numb, my foot.  I am a wretched, mournful, pissed off victim of FTD.  I hate the disease.  I hate it for Gary and I don't understand God's plan.

I took Diva home and then returned to the "Happy Place".  The residents were listening to the soundtrack from "Grease".  Talk about a lively environment.  They had lunch and then started scattering to different parts of the unit. 

I took Gary to an anteroom and spent some quiet time with him.  There was a newspaper in the room so I started reading to him.  He followed along and repeated many of my words.  At one point he said, "There has to be some profit in that!"  I laughed.  He smiled. 

Shortly thereafter, we could hear real singing coming from the living room.  One of the angels was performing songs from "Grease" along with the soundtrack. She was fabulous, animated and put on quite the show.  The Residents were laughing.  I took Gary and another resident to the room and enjoyed the show. 

The laughter and enjoyment of those moments were the exact opposite of the grief I had felt earlier in the day.  Same room.  The roller coaster of emotions of today have taken their toll on me. 

Gary started to nod off so one of the Angels took him off to take a nap and once again, I left.  This time was finding me closer to the comfortably numb side of emotions rather then the gut-wrenching sadness of earlier.  God has a way of snapping me back into reality and dusting me off.

As I left the unit, I ran into the Pastor who had touched our lives so much last week.  I gave him our blog business card and asked him to share it with others and to pray for us regarding the book I will start to write soon.

One thing is for sure, during this week of FTD awareness, I did not need a reminder that FTD has changed my life in significant ways and permanently.  I pray for all the families who are touched by this horrible disease. 

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