Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Trip through Rage into Virginia

What a difference a week can make in the lives of humans.

As many of you know, my husband has FTD (Frontotemporal Degeneration) and has lived in Memory Care for four and half months.  He is now wheelchair bound due to many falls and risk of falls in the future.  He is practically non-verbal. 

Prior to him moving into Memory Care, for a couple of years, he went to day care for half day and we hired caregivers to be at home with him until I got home at night.  Just last December , I took him on an airplane from our home in Anaheim, California to visit my Dad and family in Virginia. 

That trip was exhausting for us both.  Even then, I had to use a wheelchair and an attendant to catch planes on time.  I knew when he locked me out of the rental car at the airport in 20 degree weather that we would never travel together again. 

My husband is 67.  On the other hand, my father is 84 and up until 5 weeks ago, somewhat healthy.  Then the call came that he was in the emergency room with liquid coming from every orifice and in critical condition.  With the whole story revealed, it had Pancreatitis, kidney disease, heart failure, atrial defibrillation, diabetes, and a chronic case of stubbornness.  As he moved in and out of the critical care unit and skilled nursing, the stories from home were confusing.

Last Friday, I received a concerned call that forced me to make the decision to go to Virginia.  At was an awful time to have to leave events at my job, but if everything goes well, I could return to work in time for a once-in-five year meeting at work. 

So, here I am in Virginia on day two of my "I'm here to be with my Dad tour."  He has again been upgraded to the skilled nursing floor with only oxygen and a feeding tube to his stomach.  Their is no medical reason for him to not want food so we can only surmise that his repulsion to food is psychological. 

There is a very big difference in caring from someone with FTD and someone whose mind is completely crisp.  My Dad does not miss anything and my husband comprehends very little.

As I have rubbed my Dad's legs and feet with lotion, removed and brushed his false teeth, fed and watered him, I found that compared to before Gary's illness, I have expert level patience.  Dad is so much easier to care for than Gary simply because he can communicate with me and still has humor. Nothing seems gross or bothers me as it would have pre-FTD.  Caregiving makes one tougher.

I found that memories can trigger rage. Last December, when we arrived at the airport, I put Gary into the wheelchair and moved to luggage. I put one suitcase on Gary's lap and pulled two behind me while pushing his chair with my waist. We moved across the entire aiport to the car rental counter.

There was one Little girl sitting there looking at her smart phone and picking her nails.  She said that she could not help us as she was off-duty and that I had to go outside, up the elevator to the parking deck.  I was flabbergasted.  So, I went through the same process and managed to get Gary and the luggage to the parking deck.   I was ready to cry.  It was 20 degrees outside and I asked the attendant to stay with Gary while I retrieved the car.

As soon as we got the luggage in the car, I realized I had to take the smart carte back.....nope, I could not pay the attendant to do it.  I made sure the heat was on so Gary would be warm.  I had to trust that he would not get behind the wheel and drive off.  When I returned, he had locked the car with himself inside and would not let me in.......you can go back and read my blog from last Christmas for the rest of that story.

That night, as we left the airport in the rental car, I realized that one of Gary's gloves was missing.  Brand new.  I became irate to the point of screaming.  I knew he couldn't help it .  I pulled over in a gas station parking lot where there was plenty of light and found the glove.  I could not find various mechanisms on the car and was frustrated beyond imagination.  I remember cussing like a sailor because during this time, I turned the wrong way on the highway and was headed for Virginia Beach. I turned to the other direction.

As we drove up to the mountains, I cooled off.  But I remember feeling rage at being helpless. 

Fast forward 10 months.  Same airport.  By myself.  I had left home in California at 8:00 am Pacific Time.  I arrived in Virginia at 11:35 pm, Eastern time.  I was tired and looking forward to getting my rental car (that I was supposed to pick up at 10:30 pm) and going to the hotel.

My bag was literally the last bag down the luggage carrier.  I retrieve my brand new, very large suitcase and started to walk to the same counter as last December.  I thought that the bag had an incredible amount of drag and the 42 pound bag felt like 60.  The wheel had broken.  Silly me, rather than get a smart carte, I drug it.  The counter was only about 100 feet. 

Yes, unbelievably the counter was closed with a large sign saying to either use the kiosks (conveniently located next to the sign) or go to the large yellow Hertz sign in the parking deck.  Both kiosks were out of order.  "You have GOT to be kidding me!"  So, I walked outside, dragging my suitcase as for now there were no carts available.  I drug it onto the elevator that we had used last Christmas.  Memories of that trauma were flooding me.  As I exited the elevator, I rested and looked for the yellow Hertz sign.  None to be found. 

With my frustration growing, I approached the Enterprise booth.  The child working the booth was clearly related to the chick who was off-duty last Christmas.  It was a very shallow gene pool.

When I asked about the Hertz booth, he looked at me and said, "Ma-um, that counter is downstairs."  I explained about the closed counter, the out of order kiosks and was met with the Service Etiquette of a dead rock.  He finished with "that's not my company and I don't know what to tell you" as he closed the glass service window.  ARGHHHHHHHHHH. 

There was another passenger having the same problem.  We both went back downstairs ( same elevator, no cart....dragging sixty pounds)and asked  security guard what we should do.  He replied that we should go out to the FIRST floor of the parking deck to the other Hertz counter.  Really?????????

I drug the suitcase back to the downstairs doors and proceeded to the bright yellow Hertz sign that was tucked around behind the elevator where I had been twice.  I retrieved my car and asked for directions to the hotel.  THe directions sounded easy enough.  "The hotel is right on the property, in fact, you could walk there.  Just go out the garage, hang a right and go out of the airport.  Make a U turn at the first left and you will come back around to the hotel.  Its a five story building and you can't miss it."

It sounded easy enough.  I left the garage, turned right and went out the "airport" and never saw a left turn until I got to the intersection at the traffic light about a mile away.  Perhaps she meant "left Turn"? So I turned left and went to the area where the other hotels were.  My hotel was not there.  So, I decided to pull over and call the hotel.  I found the same gas station as last December which had plenty of light.  I called the hotel.  I'm sure I was sounding extremely frustrated when I told the woman where I was and asked for clearer directions. 

She said, " Go back to the terminal.  Go past the Rental Car Garage and go out of the airport.  Make a U turn at the first left and you will come back around to the hotel.  Its a five story building and you can't miss it."

I told her that I had just done that.  She said, "I'm sorry huney, just do what I told you and you will be here in no ti-me. "  I was enraged and starting to cuss. 

So, I went back to the airport building and followed the exact same directions.  I did see a left loop that went back to the departure terminals but did not take it.  I told myself that they had told me to exit the airport.  I ended up in the exact same place.  

I pulled over and screamed.  I had to re-group.  I tried to think like an airport and hotel employee.  OMG.  It came to me.  They did not mean go out of Airport, they meant go out of the airport building!  Unbelievable. 

I returned to the building, turned left on that Departure loop road and saw the hotel on the right.  I did have to make a right turn to get there.  I was so angry.

I got to the front desk and encountered the woman on the phone that insisted on calling everyone "Huney and Darlin". I explained to her what happened. She looked at me with a blank stare and said, "well, of course I meant the building. Why would you go all the way out the airport?"

I gave up and spent the next hour calming down in my room.

I as I lay in the bed, I contemplated the residual anger that came up in me related to events with Gary 10 months ago.  The emotions were the same in each situation. So many things would not have been so frustrating had I not been so tired and dealing with old "baggage".  (Pun intended).  I need to learn to purge the emotions better so little things do not get to me. 

I am sitting in my Dad's room watching him sleep.  He needs to eat but won't.  I will be here for four more days and I have a great job to do. Gary is cared for in California and I need to stay on track here. I grieve everyday for the husband who has mentally left me.  I am concerned about my Dad but he seems to be taking the path less traveled out of the woods.   

Emotions are an amazing thing. NO matter what the emotion one is feeling, whether anger or love, it can encompass all of one's being.  God is an amazing God that enables us to feel so richly. 

Note to self:  pack a lighter suitcase next time.


  1. You have quite a gift...I felt as if I was alongside you the entire time..experiencing each unforgettable moment. .thank you for sharing. .and I think I might get a better night's sleep tonight. .especially after dragging that suitcase around...lol