Family is complicated. That might be the understatement of the century. But when you’re in a caregiving position for someone with an incurable condition, it becomes even more so. Memories can be complicated, too.
I remember the time my dad checked me out of school when I was in 4th grade — a complete surprise. Things were never perfect, and at times the relationship between us (the kids) and him could be rocky. But there were times also that his love and kindness were unparalleled.
Molly and I moved many times during our marriage. Each time as we would leave the driveway of a home we would shed some tears. Not because we would miss the house, but the memories and friends we were leaving behind; great neighbors who would be lifetime friends. Our first house was on a street we’d driven for years with a vision of buying someday. Many friends helped us move. Then, after much time and effort, we made it a cozy home for our family. A few years later, we moved to a larger home. It had a one-acre lawn, and a family room large enough for a pool table that would get hours of use. The extra space and property allowed us to have our first dog, Packer.
Our comfort zone would change abruptly on my first job transfer to New York. This disruption would be repeated 3 times in 5 years. Each time our children adjusting to new schools, leaving friends, and beginning new relationships. The final move would come when we were empty nesters. The scene remained the same as we drove away from our Hilltop Drive home for the last time. Tears of joy and sorrow.
We remained in our last home in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles for 26 years. The progression of Molly’s Alzheimer’s disease eventually required her to move to assisted living. There would be no more holiday celebrations or weekends by the pool with family and friends. Jeff, Tim, Amy, and I began long weeks of sorting through the many items pictures, and collections accumulated over 50 plus years of marriage. Each one of us discovered things that would trigger memories. We shared tears, and laughter preparing the house to be sold. We began hearing from friends who related their memories of Molly, and things she had done to help them, and in some cases change their lives.
That’s where the idea of The Memory Kit had its roots. Sometime later it became a work in progress. We realized that what we learned as care givers could maybe help others with their journey in caring for an Alzheimer’s patient. Everyone involved, the patient, family, friends, and the care giver team would benefit. Later, as we have learned, The Memory Kit, would help make the grieving process a bit more bearable.
When we drove down the driveway in the Hollywood hills for the last time there were no tears. It was no longer a home. It was just a house.
P.S. When the memory kit app is launched later this year I hope our friends will share memories of Molly.
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