Often, it’s the action you don’t take that forces your hand. It was May 6, 2014, 12:06 AM, and in an instant, my life had changed forever. I had fallen and fractured my femur. A call to our daughter, and then 911 was the beginning of the most difficult chapter of our family odyssey.
I would have surgery, and weeks of rehabilitation. Our children put their lives on hold to care for Molly and me. We soon faced up to the reality that her disease had progressed to the point where she could no longer live safely at home, and within weeks Molly moved into the memory disorders community at an assisted living facility. I lived there as well, only two floors up, while I went through rehab.
Now, I had no choice but to let friends and family know about Molly’s Alzheimer’s disease. I called our inner circle: immediate family and our dearest of friends. There were lots of tears, and every one offered their help, yet by late fall of that year I still hadn’t told most of our friends. In a moment of inspiration or desperation, I’m not sure which, I decided to deliver the news in our annual Christmas letter; the first one that would be signed by only me.
I have decided to include a copy of the letter that I wrote below. Perhaps it will help someone who is struggling with how to share the diagnosis with family and friends.
Dear Friends and family,
Certain letters are difficult to write. I wanted to do this last December, but just couldn’t summon up the courage. There are probably those of you who wondered why you haven’t heard from us for months. Some subjects are tough to discuss, and dementia is one of those. It’s particularly difficult if it is affecting someone you love. Molly was struggling with it for several years, and last year was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I was her primary care giver along with several in-home care givers, and lots of help from Amy, Jeff, & Tim. It was very apparent that at some point she would need to be in an assisted living facility. We were all reluctant to make that decision. Unfortunately, that decision was made for us.
The first week of May I lost my balance and fell fracturing my femur. It required surgery, and several weeks of rehab. We moved Molly to the Alzheimer floor of Sunrise Senior Living facility in Beverly Hills. It’s a wonderful place and I moved there when I began my recoupment process. Now, six months later, I am walking quite well, although I still use a cane for safety.
There is no eloquent way to describe the affect this disease has on the family. Our hearts are broken, and that won’t change. There are many sad days for all of us. It’s particularly tough as we face the holidays. We did have a fairly nice Christmas last year, but knew it would be the last celebration with the entire family.
We spent the month of August getting the house ready to sell, and listed it in September. It went into escrow in October, and will close in early December. All of us have wonderful memories of our 26 years on Firenze Ave. I’m leasing the house back for one month, and am currently looking for an apartment near Sunrise so I’m able to visit Molly easily.
Molly was so great about keeping track of many of your birthdays, your children’s birthdays, and anniversary’s. Each month of every year she purchased the cards, and mailed them at the appropriate time. Unfortunately I have no way to capture those dates, and carry on her tradition. It’s just another of her wonderful qualities that will be gone, but not forgotten. She cared for all of our friends and relatives a great deal. She loved talking to you, visiting you, and hearing from you. Her love for our children, and grandchildren brought her great joy. She supported all of us unselfishly continuously.
Even though this is a cruel twist of fate, our family will remain strong. We will continue to give Molly our love, and support. We will enjoy any good moments whenever they occur.
This Holiday Season enjoy each moment with your families and friends. Remember to help those less fortunate, and give thanks for your blessings
Before there can be a campfire there has to be a camping trip. Such expeditions all start with an organizer (leader? instigator?) who declares that it is time to head for the hills, beach, forest, desert, mountains. A nerve is struck, date and place agreed upon, and a stake is driven into the sand. We go!!!
I think the best trips start with a late night or pre-dawn meet-up where a caravan forms. As someone said, "Any real adventure begins and ends at dark". You never know until then who is really coming. Anyone can say: "I'm in", but until Saturday at 5AM in the Costco parking lot, you never know who will pack up their gear and show up. Every trip is unique, and the magic is in the final mix of old-timers, young bucks, and newcomers.
The best campfires come at the end of an epic day -- the sun too hot, the trail too steep, the wind too cold. Enduring bonds us. Safe, well fed, and bone-weary, we gather around that amazing fire, smoking and crackling and hot. And then according to no rule or law of anything, stories are told. Some, for the hundredth time, with groans from the old-timers; laughter from the newbies. Forgotten details, embellishments, and sometimes even revelations bouncing back and forth through the sparks. Sometimes we laugh until our sides ache, yet other times it gets quiet and the only sound we hear is the fire and the pop and hiss of wet wood. As the night goes on we may shout, howl, dance, sing, argue, kiss, hug, cry, and laugh again.
You, or one you love dearly, has Alzheimer's. The Memory Kit is your way to lead an epic trip, to push your limits, to sit around the fire until the morning light, and tell the story of a lifetime.
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