Jul 14, 2013

Being There

7/14/2013 — cori

Sometimes showing up is the only thing you can do to show someone how much you care or help out.  That's what I wanted to do once I heard of my Bapchie's heart attack.   My highly independent, healthy, always going and doing for others Bapchie was now physically incapacitated...it was almost unbelievable.   She has been caring for my Jadziu who has Alzheimer's for over 10 years now.  It has been one of the hardest things she has ever done.  There are many times he has become combative and hostile while in this state of mind.  This has not only worn her down emotionally, it has depleted all of her physical resources now too.  We knew this would happen...it was just a matter of 'when'.  When I got the call that Bapchie was in the hospital, I knew I had to go see her. I was afraid it would be the last time the kids and I would ever see her alive.  Plus, I wanted to show her she's worth it; that I would do the hard thing for her.  That I would be there no matter what.  That's what love does.

She was never a sickly woman, rather she was always active and on the go and prided herself in dressing nice and keeping her hair and make-up done.  At 87 she was still in great shape.  Her eyes had been giving her trouble recently which frustrated her to no end, but she was receiving help for that.  She still made breakfast, lunch and dinner for Jadziu every day.  Since she could no longer leave the house without Jadziu, she came to rely on my Uncle and his family to bring groceries and my parents visits every 6 weeks as the highlights of her day.  She had learn to come to rely on the kindness and strength of her neighbor who was always there for her.  The last time I saw her was for my Jadziu's 90th birthday  over 3 1/2 years ago.  I kept asking her if I could come visit her and help her out when we talked on the phone.  I could hear the depression and sadness in her voice.  But she didn't want us to see Jadziu this way.  She would continue to carry this burden alone.

The kids and I left Minnesota two days after her heart attack and arrived two days later after driving two, eleven hour days.  The kids are such awesome travelers, never complaining and so much fun to be around.  Hotels with pools and free breakfasts are our friend!  It was very important for me to bring them so they could have a memory of their Great-Grandparents one last time.  Chuck was unable to take any time off work and was very understanding and supportive of my desire to bring the kids with me.  

I was shocked to see my Bapchie in this hospital bed.  She looked like one of the people in the nursing home I go to visit.  She looked frail, sickly, helpless, weak, hair undone and pale.  She required constant oxygen, thus the oxygen mask.  Once in the hospital, they discovered she had suffered an earlier heart attack that blocked one ventricle as well as partially blocked two more.  No wonder she had been so tired.

One of the hardest parts of this whole ordeal was caring for Jadziu.  Mom and Dad drove up immediately and settled in at Bacphie's house and began caring for him full time.  As we were all to soon find out, this was an exhausting job.  We all tried to take turns and relieve them of the constant care, but they ended up with the brunt of it for almost 2 full weeks.  It has been amazing to see the family step up and all help out and to see my Dad and Uncle work together for their Mom and Dad's best interest.  These are super stressful situations to be in and yet they have managed to do so much by each person sacrificing and graciously helping the other.

One day when my parents and my Uncle had to go interview Alzheimer's homes so we could find a place to care for Jadziu, my cousins and I each took 3 hour shifts watching Jadziu.  Standing in my Bapchie's shoes for a measly 3 hours was exhausting!  I don't know how she did it.   But I'm so thankful I had the opportunity.  I enjoyed that time with my Jadziu.  

When we weren't at the hospital, we were staying at my Uncle's house.  Thank God they had a pool because it was so incredibly hot the 3 days we were there. The kids practically lived in the pool.  We had no plan or agenda each day, which was hard on my kids who live by 'The Plan'.  But they adjusted so well.  I told them 'The Plan' was that we were going to be like water and just go with the flow.  That meant we had no idea who we were going to see when, what we were going to eat or even if we would, or what time anything would happen.  We had one lunch that consisted of donuts and one dinner that consisted of ice cream and another of cereal.  This didn't seem to upset them any.

The bonus of this trip was definitely getting to see all of our extended family that we don't get to see very often.  We enjoyed playing in the pool with all my cousins.  Bennett had a blast playing basketball with Jack.  Lauren taught Chloe how to do a flip into the pool.  Kelley watched the kids for me when I had my rotation of caring for  Jadziu.  I enjoyed visiting with my Aunt Jan and Uncle Mike whenever they were home.  Unfortunately, my cousin Andi was rushed to the hospital with appendicitis while we were there because there wasn't enough already going on.  We were relieved they caught it in a timely manner and she was back to normal the next day.

We also got to see my parents for little snippets of time, but those little times sure were enjoyable and a bonus since we never know when we're going to see them next.  One evening we were visiting with them in the front yard of my Bapchie's house since Jadziu had just gone to bed and we didn't want to wake him.  However, he woke up on his own and noticed we were there.  Thankfully, he was in a great mood and we were able to visit with him and even take pictures.

Funny thing happened.  Bennett was trying to tell a story about something that happened and when he was done Jadziu told him, "Try not to tell stories unless absolutely necessary."  It was hilarious.  It was typical Jadziu.  He was always quick witted and made us laugh.

On our last evening there we also got to visit Aunt Paula, my Mom's sister.  It's always so much fun to see their family.  Thank God yet again for another pool. The kids had a blast playing in it with my Uncle John and their cousin Gina.  We were treated to Uncle John's great cooking and delicious Modern Pastry cannoli's for dessert. 

It was definitely a whirlwind of a trip.  The three days passed in a blur and it was time to set off again for home.  I decided to make the trip home in three days instead of two knowing I was going to be tired.  Our first day was supposed to be only 7 1/2 hours long.  We were going to drive the length of Pennsylvania and stay in a hotel on the boarder just before Ohio.  Remember how I said I was tired?  I wasn't joking.  After a stop to fill up on gas mid-way through Pennsylvania, I got back on the highway going the wrong direction.  I went east instead of west on the interstate.  The worst part is, I didn't realize my mistake until I saw the sign, "Welcome to New Jersey" two and half hours later.  I wanted to pitch a royal fit. I wanted to get out of the car and stomp and scream and cry.  I was so mad!!  What a stupid mistake.  I just added 5 more hours to our trip.  I was already exhausted, as I'm sure the kids were.  It turned into a 12 hour day in the car, driving through some torrential rains, traffic backups and boring country side.  It was not one of my better days.

The following day was only a 4 hour drive to western Ohio where we stopped in a visited Nana. It was so nice to have a day of rest before finishing our final leg of the journey which was another 11 hour day.

I'm thankful this sad event in Bapchie's life happened when it did.  The kids and I had nothing planned but lazy summer days.  We had all the time in the world to take a road trip.  I'm so glad this didn't happen later in the year when we are horribly limited by our school schedules and weather.  All things work out for good and I'm happy to say that included this as well.  

My parent's and Uncle found a wonderful, loving Alzheimer's home to care for my Jadziu where he is at peace and enjoys his surroundings.  My Bapchie was understanding and accepting of the fact that she can no longer care for him and was thankful he's in a good place where he still has freedom and respect.  My Bapchie is slowly improving but will never go back to being the independent woman she once was which is so very sad.

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