Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wrap Up

So we've finally arrived at the last day of our trip. After a quick breakfast at our motel in Glendive, Montana, we hit the road by 7 a.m. It was again a hot day, and we were grateful for an airconditioned car. We weren't pushing hard to put on the miles, but did hope to reach Lethbridge, Alberta that evening. And, in fact, that did happen.

We stopped for a bite of lunch at a Wendy's in Havre, Montana, where I had a funny experience. After we ordered, as I was using the washroom, I noticed, in the booth next to me, some toenails polished with a bright attractive blue. I almost said, "Hey, sharp polish! I really like it." But was held back from such a bold comment to a stranger. As we both came out of our stalls, she asked me, "Where in Alberta do you come from?" I almost fell over. "How in the world do you know I'm from Alberta?" (DD.#2 suggested I should have said, "Do I pee like an Albertan?") She and her husband, who live in Saskatchewan, had noticed us drive into the parking lot and saw our license plate. (A follow up: I liked the polish so much, I bought a similar shade when I got home. It's an L.A. Colors, and it just doesn't chip. I've had it on for three weeks now, and it still looks good!)

We were following the same highways we used in 1971 when we moved to Alberta from Ontario with our four young children. DD#1 had earlier drawn a picture of mountains the way kids do: simple triangle-shaped forms. I had tried to explain to her that mountains were not just pointy triangles but more ragged shapes. When we neared Shelby, Montana and saw the Sweetgrass Hills, she said, "See, Mom!" in perfect vindication of her artwork.

The day we drove by them was extremely hot, and the atmosphere was very milky from the heat and from the smoke of forest fires to the west. But, as you see, they are pretty perfectly pointy. This is just one of the group, taken from the car window as we drove by.

In Lethbridge we checked into an Econo Lodge, where we had a nice little set of rooms. We wanted to linger a bit, because we have a dear old friend there who lives in a care home, as she can no longer be on her own. When we went to see her the next morning, the attendant told us that she was regrettably very confused that day. But when she saw us her face lit up and she was delighted to see us. We had a very good visit with her and were thankful that she was so "present" when we were there.

I've recently read two very good books written by people who cared for a loved one with Alzheimer's until it was no longer possible to manage at home. (Our friend does not have Alzheimer's, but is just failing because of old age.) I would recommend both books, and found the contrast between them interesting. The first is titled, "into the shadows," by robert f. dehaan, subtitled, "a journey of faith and love into alzheimer's" and published Faith Walk Publishing (ISBN 0-9724196-3-2), and the second "The House on Beartown Road," by Elizabeth Cohen, published by Random House, N.Y. Robert DeHaan was caring for his wife Roberta with the help of his church family, and later his siblings in Grand Rapids. Elizabeth cared for her father on her own, with a new baby, and a husband who left after two months because he couldn't handle the situation. Her neighbors did give her help over the winter, in terms of snow removal, wood chopping, and food, but she was in dire straits trying to care for her father and her baby, while working a full-time job.

The contrast between their situations is so striking. Any time someone is in a situation of caring for an Alzheimer's sufferer, they deserve all our sympathy and whatever help we can give them. But the difference between having a support network and being solely responsible is wrenching.

A confession here: Robert DeHaan was my cousin, one of those quite a bit older than myself. My mother was the youngest of eleven children, so I had a host of much older cousins on that side of the family. Robert has died since writing that book, and is deeply missed by his sisters, who helped him through his ordeal.

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