Learning to Cry

teardropAfter I had the “icky discussion” with the doctor, I take my Dad home and I tell him we will do all we can to help him feel better. I wrestle with the dichotomy of treating a man with dementia, which will never improve with how to manage through cancer that has made the parts of his life he was enjoying painful. Within a short span of time, he went from slurring to not eating, drinking or even trying to talk.

The past few days have rendered me numb. My husband helped me recognize that my go-to emotion is the lack of any emotion. I turn into a robot and move through my day like a zombie. I have so many questions, of which most are meaningless to ask now. I need to accept, recognize and address my grief. I find myself crying in bouts now.

At church yesterday, our minister happened to speak about lamenting. She did a lesson with the children and asked them about how they express frustration, sadness and anger and they agreed that “crying” was the most popular choice. Somehow, we have learned that crying is an inappropriate response and I know that I learned to quash it from my range of emotions.

While I thought crying was a weakness, I am finding that it is helping me comprehend and shed the sadness and grief as well as my anger and frustration. Dehydrated. 

Someone broke into your house?

I spent my evening trying to figure out what happened after my mom calls me to say that someone broke into their townhouse. She says the police are on their way. Earlier she called to tell me they were staying in the retirement community for the week.

Wait, you are at the townhouse now?

I was on my way home but changed direction to head over to their house.  Before I arrive, I call my brother who says he has already talked to the police. They understand my parents have dementia. I arrive and the policemen are very nice. I get a quick debrief to understand that my dad and a neighbor broke into the townhouse.


After we clean up, board up the broken window and my parents and I are driving back to their retirement community the story emerges.

My dad believed that when his keys didn’t work, we kids changed the lock on the townhouse. He broke in with the help of a neighbor.

During this process, my mom decided someone broke in and then called the police. She was still overwhelmed in the car when she realized they caused the whole issue. My dad seems crystal clear on what happened and apologies to me several times for the mess he caused.

I mentioned to my parents that they both now have holes in the memory that mean together, they make some really poor decisions. We love them and are very concerned for their safety. I also tell them I’m sad they think we would lock them out of their house.

The car issue raises its ugly head. If we would take their cars, wouldn’t we lock them out of their house? I can understand how they jumped to that conclusion. I tell my parents that both my brothers sat with them and discussed this over the course of three days. Unfortunately, they don’t remember.

I walk them to their apartment (to make sure those keys work). I ask them if they would please stay in the retirement community until I can get the entry fixed, clean up the glass and make sure the locks are not so sticky.

My dad is tired and sweaty and already told me he just wants to shower. He promises me they will call before they attempt to go back to the townhouse.

I tell him I am worried they won’t remember. He gives me a nod as I stick a note to the refrigerator. Confronted.

No More Conversations (I miss talking to my folks)

This post is from my brother as he reflects back on his visit last month.

When I visit my parents these days, it seems we have nothing to talk about other than the usual pleasantries when I arrive such as “How are you?” “Glad to see you!” “Want a drink?” and “Want to get something to eat?” My parents have lost the ability to have normal conversations or even small talk for that matter.

The last time I visited and we went out to eat (as usual), my parents made comments about things they saw rather than talk to me. My father will look out the window and count airplanes if he can see them. My mom will comment about trees or clouds, etc. Both will see and make comments about children they see, hair colors and people who remind them of someone else. I just sit there and try not to wish I was anywhere else.

If I try to have a conversation, my parents will struggle with the topic, show no interest and go back to looking out a window, or become combative around simple facts or dates of almost any topic. My approach at times is to regale them with funny anecdotes or with memories they can sit and smile over, but that doesn’t always work. I believe their defense mechanism is to just not engage by constantly focusing on things that catch their eye, just like very young children do. Quieted.