Reconnecting with Family after Mom Lost Her Battle with Dementia and Acute Leukemia

Maggi_1964 Sam_1971

Photos: (1) Maggi, April 1964, (2) Sam, December 1971 

This past weekend, I had a really nice and long overdue conversation with my first cousin, Maggi. We hadn’t spoken since she and her brother Sam and wife Charlotte had come for a quick dinner as they were passing through on their way back home to the northwest. Since Mom passed away, I’ve been feeling like I would very much like to be connected to the family that remain…all of my cousins. Maggi and her brothers are the last direct family that I know of and they are my first cousins and very much a part of my own history. We had a really nice conversation reconnecting and talking about the family and how Mom lost her battle with dementia and acute leukemia.

As a very young child, I used to spend time at their house while my mother was trying to figure out her life with the separation of my father and dealing with her OCD problem. I remember being there but they are distant memories since I was so young, but I have seen the photos from that time and had often wondered how my life would have turned out if my mother had taken them up on their offer to take me to live with them. Brothers and a sister, in a large family…in a house with a shot at a regular life…although it never happened, I can’t help but wonder, what if.

As kids, they lived up in Muncie and then moved out to Washington’s State, which was almost as far away as they could possibly be and still be in the USA, so we really didn’t get a chance to see each other over the years very much, which was sad. Occasionally, they would come as a family to our grandparent’s house and since I spent most of my free time there, I was able to see and bond with them during those visits. Our grandparent’s house wasn’t very big so us kids got to sleep on a huge quilt on the floor in the living room. I just loved the excitement and the feeling that there were other kids in the family. I am an only child, so life with a single working mother was rather difficult at times…very lonely. After we all would settle in at bedtime, my Aunt Lillian would come in to read us a story. I just loved that part of it, as nobody ever read to me as a kid, so when they came to visit, it was a very big tug at what having a large family would feel like…and I liked it. It’s probably one of the reason’s why I have this very strange love for the old show The Waltons. I still watch it to this day having seen all episodes way too many times, never tiring of them!

Mornings would start early with all of the kids in the house smelling a traditional bacon and eggs breakfast cooking every morning. All I could think of is how different my life was during those visits and I wondered, is this what whole families really do every day? They have cooked breakfasts and eat together at the table? Yes, I loved their visits and always looked forward to the next one as I know our grandparents did.

Lynn_holding_David  At_beach_Ontario_1959

Photo: (3) Mike, Lynn holding David as a baby, (4) David, Maggi, Mike and Lillian, their mother at the beach

There were 4 of them, 3 boys, Michael, David and Sam and Maggi, their only girl. I was close in age with Michael but he was a very quiet and introverted boy, keeping to himself as I remember. David, on the other hand was my buddy. We seemed to have a lot in common and had similar temperaments. Maggi and Sam were born later on as they were the youngest, so most of the time I had spent with them back then during visits was while they were still babies. It wasn’t until many many years later, as adults that we got to know each other and it was worth the wait.

Bottom line, is…the only thing that really really matters in life in the end, is the love of family and good friends.

 Whether you realize that early on or later is not important…as long as you do get it eventually before it’s your time to move on.

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Dementia, Parkinson’s Disease and Acute Leukemia…What Next?

mom-me-boat mom-sister-trip2

Pictured above (1)  A young Mom with a very young me. (2) Older sister Lillian and very young Mom looking very cute with her blonde hair!
Makes you wonder how a person can from there to where we are now.

It’s been a month since I posted last. It’s been a very active month for us after the out-of-left-field, ambush diagnosis of acute leukemia and I’m actually still processing and adjusting to the inevitable. After the diagnosis, things seemed status quo while Shad was visiting. I began to feel that they must have mis-diagnosed her. She was still walking around and looking out the window during the day, still eating her 3 meals a day with in-between snacks, still stubborn, still interested in life.

Then, little by little her mobility started declining. She was getting up less during the day, not as interested in what was going on outside the house or around her, her appetite was dwindling off and was having problems swallowing. It was very obvious that something was happening. She was agitated more than usual, started to feel frightened, especially at night. She also started getting night sweats and became very panicked and scared in the night time hours. One night I slept at the end of her bed so that she couldn’t get up and wander around the house in fear of her falling.

All this happened little by little, but here we are at the end of September and she can no longer stand up or get out of bed. Some days she eats nothing at all. She is still taking fluids although it’s not much to speak about. She sleeps rarely, like she is in a complete manic phase which effects everyone in the house. I’m not at all sure what meds she’s taking now are working for her. I actually think that one of the new meds are having an opposite effect on her.

She’s afraid to be alone and has stated very clearly that she is dying but when asked, she can’t explain why she feels that way…she just senses it, I guess. She said she has seen people and we all know what that means. They are waiting for her on the other side. I can only imagine how frightened that she must be. With the effects of dementia and Parkinson’s disease which makes her not in her right head anyway, and the speed of which she is losing the other abilities in her life due to acute leukemia, she must feel horrified of what is to come next…

and there is nothing that we can do other than to be with her, hold her hand and comfort her until the end.

What else can anyone do at a time like this? We all do the best we can.

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