I had my children relatively late in life. I am in my mid-50s, yet, I still have 2 children living at home. Today, I'm going to talk about my 13 year old. She has been dealing with the effects of Alzheimer's most of her life. She went from her grandma being her nanny, to being her grandmother's playmate, to being her own grandmother's babysitter.
For several years after Mom's diagnosis, Mom was no longer able to drive. But, her condition wasn't bad enough that she had to stay home. She used to walk a little more than a mile to her favorite coffee shop, sometimes a couple times a day. Most days, I would drop her off on my way to work and she would walk home. People along her route got to know her. There were many times that I went out with Mom that strangers would come and give Mom a hug and say, "Hi, Andi!" They would explain that Mom used to stop on her way home from the coffee shop and talk.
During the Summers and on weekends, Mom would walk with Katie. Katie loved it. She became kind of a mascot to the people in the coffee shop. But, that all stopped the day that I was at work and the phone rang. There was a woman on the phone who said, "You don't know me, but I have your daughter." Katie was 7. You can imagine my panic. Mom had stopped at 7-11 and complained of chest pains. This woman, who was a grade school teacher, took Katie by the hand and calmed her enough for Katie to tell her my phone number at work. I thank God for that woman.
So, Katie has seen a lot in her young life. She remembers very few of the good times with her grandma. She mostly remembers cancelled plans and invitations that had to be declined. She is very familiar with anger, frustration and yelling, she sees them all every day. And, for that I am ashamed.
I often wonder how different this all would have turned out had I had my children at a younger age. If I was the only one effected by my being a caretaker, would there be more patience? Would the guilt be less if I knew that my kids were living normal lives? Would they see a mother who showed compassion to their grandmother? Would they learn positive things from my example?
Obviously, these are useless questions. I did have my kids late in life. And they are here taking the brunt of this hideous disease with me. Everyday. And, it is changing us all. And for that, I offer no thanks.