Friday, December 11, 2015

The Next Chapter

And so it begins. A lot of my life over the last five years involved helping to care for my parents. Dad died in 2012, and Mom died this past July. Four days of every week during that time, I was focused almost completely on their needs. I visited Peoria for two days most weeks. The day before was always my “knot in stomach” day as I anticipated all the things that could happen during my two-day “date with Alzheimer’s,” as I called it. Then the first day after I returned home was just pure exhaustion, mostly brain drain, as I recovered from my visit. The visits were often fine, but the anticipation was difficult. And the “being on” all the time was exhausting. It reminded me a lot of when I was first teaching, and I would come home, drop everything and collapse on the couch.

I feel good about the time I spent with my folks. As I’ve said, Dad was always more of a challenge because he had never lived by anyone else’s rules, but we got through it. Mom’s decline was challenging, but her sweet and funny self stayed with her to the end, for which my sister and I will be forever grateful.

So what now? First let me say with absolute sincerity, I would take Mom back in a heartbeat, Alzheimer’s and all. Spending time with her the past three years, even on our worst day, was always a joy and a gift, and if I could turn the clock back, I would do it.

But we all know the rules. I will have to wait to see her again. In the meantime…..

I’m going to appreciate every day I’m given, and I’m going to live my life in the best way I can – enjoying everything possible, being kind and trying to make a difference, spending time with the people who matter, and laughing until I pee (which doesn’t take nearly as long to achieve these days).

To Move or Not to Move?
For a long time now, I have considered moving closer to my children. Ok, since the day I became a grandma, I have considered moving closer to my grandchildren. Being three hours away is tough, and in my opinion, it’s about 2-1/2 hours too far.

Having said that, let me also say, I do not want to raise my grandchildren. Obviously I would step in if needed in those horrible situations I won’t even think about. Assuming all is reasonably normal though, let me say it again. I do not want to raise my grandchildren. I want to play with them, laugh with them, love them to pieces, snuggle with them, spoil them, enjoy every second with them, and then happily give them back to their parents so I can go home and enjoy the quiet. Being Gaya is the best gig I have ever had, and I do not want that to change.

But I can help more. I have the time, and it pains me sometimes that I could help if I were a little bit closer. As I’ve said before, my son-in-law, Scott, has to travel a lot for work. So Leah often has her hands full with those two very active little guys, in addition to her full-time teaching job. Sometimes just having another set of hands is helpful; and if one of the kids is sick, I can step in so she can work, or even better, sleep. Also, I can see the concerts, the soccer games, the ball games, swimming lessons, all those things that I could just pop over and see or do if I weren't so far away.

Actually, I’ve already got my eye on an area. It’s a Del Webb community for seniors in Huntley, Illinois. They have a restaurant, gym, walking track, two pools, trails, all kinds of things to do if I’m interested, including trips into the city to see shows, and get this…..they mow your yard and plow your snow. What is not to love about that deal?? And, I’d actually be one of the youngest in the crowd for a change! That hasn’t happened for a very long time!

Also, north of I-80, there’s Portillo’s, Giordano’s, Woodfield Mall, IKEA, and my favorite two words, yes, let’s say it together………Super. Target. Hallelujah!!

Of course, I will miss my beloved Avanti’s, Filippo’s, Peking House, Los Zarapes, and not just restaurants, but a few friends as well. But I also have friends north of I-80, and the world is smaller now. As I’ve demonstrated recently, I can fly to see one dear friend in Oregon, and then catch up with another great one in Florida. Granted, in hindsight, it probably was not the best planning on my part, but the point is I can get places.

And, I’m not leaving Lindsay out of this plan. I will be 45 minutes down the road from a major hub airport, so depending on where she is living in any given year (no bets here), I can fly to see her! Same if the kids should move away from Elgin. And of course, there's always a beach calling my name.

I don’t mean this to sound doomy and gloomy, but I have learned the hard lesson along the way, that tomorrow is not guaranteed, and I don’t know if and when Alzheimer’s will arrive, but I expect it will show up at some point. Mom always called it the family curse, and I think she may be right about that. So I’m not going to fear it. I’m going to live my life while I can, whether it’s flying to Ireland or snuggling up with a good book all day. Every day will matter.

So, bring on the bucket list and give me a planner. This girl’s got some stuff to do….

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