I keep having dreams about my old house.
Frequent readers and/or Facebook friends know that the house in which I grew up was torn down (to make way for a fancy new one) back in November. I was pretty devastated, wrote about it, and tried to be sanguine and “Zen” about it until a couple of weeks ago, when I saw that there were VIDEOS of it being torn down.
Yes, my friends, there is video. At least two clips that I know of. Maybe more. Poke around the bowels of the internet to find it if you must. I know that I didn’t have to hit “play” and watch it being torn into and demolished, but I did, and I’m sorry I did, because I am having dreams about my house every night now.
Sometimes, my family is still living there. We are standing around in the kitchen saying, “Wait. Didn’t the house get torn down? Why are we still here?” Last night I dreamed that I was on a college campus and the house was being used for a fraternity. I could see drunken frivolity happening in what was my bedroom window.
I wake up confused and sad and with the singularly disturbing feeling of being displaced.
Part of it, too, I’m sure, is my current “home life,” which is so fraught with bewilderment and resentment and sorrow right now that I’m finding it difficult to find sanctuary. Because we don’t have any help with my mother-in-law on weekends, most of our time is spent up in her apartment, finding tasks for her to do and keeping her occupied so that she doesn’t disassemble the dishwasher or take the screen door off its hinges (she did this last summer, and don’t think I’m not terrified she’ll do it again). And so our laundry piles up, crud gathers in the corners, and all I want to do is eat and cry. Or not eat and cry. Anxiety is wreaking havoc with my appetite.
We are at the point where “something has to be done.” There are cracks everywhere, our hearts are breaking as we watch my mother-in-law become a total stranger to us, and I feel like all we have at our disposal is a box of Band-Aids.
The other day, she stormed out her door and into the front yard. This was a new thing, since she rarely ventures outside of her own volition. She immediately began picking dead leaves off the azalea bushes, then turned her attention to the various tiny twigs on the lawn. She was scraping and digging around with her bare hands, and so when Kevin went to try and stop her before she got too dirty, she let loose with a fusillade of curses. The yard was horrible, he was horrible, this was her house. He couldn’t take it anymore (even as you understand that this is what Alzheimer’s does to a person, you can only handle so much of being told by your own mother how much you suck), so I went out and tried to calm her down.
“I just have to do a few more.”
“I know, Mom. But it’s getting late and we were going to take care of the yard this weekend.”
“This is my house. And the girl I love most in the world is going to see this, and it’s not right.”
Currently, my way of dealing with her when she is like this is something I call “Acknowledge & Deflect.” It goes a little like this:
“I know. I know it’s your house and you want things to look right. And we’re going to take care of it. I know that you get frustrated because you can’t take care of things like you used to. So let’s go upstairs, and I’ll fix you some dinner, and we’ll talk about it.”
It worked. She was in a pretty good mood by the time I got her ready for bed. But then I went downstairs and sobbed.
This is her house. She herself doesn’t remember how to clean it, or fix whatever is wrong with it, and things are not to her pre-Alzheimer’s standards, and so she gets angry. I am living in her house, and I am not doing a good job of housekeeping.
My friend Megan, a young woman of great courage and character, has not seen most of her family in over a year and a half. They belong to a church whose rules of conduct are quite clear; if you do not agree, you do not belong. She wandered for quite a long time before finding new roots, but before she did, she wrote: “I don’t know where to go when I can’t go home.”
I am feeling this today, more than I should, probably. The house in which I live does not feel like home. The house that did is gone.
Last month, Kevin and I had a rare “date night” and we went to see Neil Finn. You know, my boyfriend since around ’84 or so. It was, as always, a great show. But he played this one:
And I lost it. I lost it all over the place.
I will try to connect
All the pieces you left
I will carry it on
And let you forget
I’ll remember the years
When your mind was still clear
How the laughter and life
Filled up this silent house…
We are starting to look at assisted living facilities. We’ve met with our attorney and our Geriatric Care Manager and this is, simply, what needs to happen. We honored our promise to her and kept her in her house for as long as she was able to safely live there. She needs more assistance than we can provide her. And the assistance she needs is outside of these walls she’s called hers for most of her life. I don’t know how she is going to react to this. I can’t explain it to her; she won’t understand.
I’ve used this blog to try and explain to people how fucking awful this disease is, how it shakes your faith to its very roots and makes you question what it really means to be YOU. Where are you, really, when your memories and your ability to function as you once did take leave of you, until you are no longer able to live in your own home?
I don’t need to see video of my home being destroyed. I live in a destroyed home already.