Friday, May 25

dotty and duncan

More than a year ago I first discovered Bob DeMarco's Alzheimer's Reading Room. I've been visiting ever since and have learned so very much through what Bob has shared with us there...especially from his journey as a caregiver for his mom Dotty. 

For the past almost-three weeks, I have been honored and humbled to read what Bob shared about his mom leaving this life. Morning and night, I would check for a new post, hoping to find out how they were doing...thinking of them each time I passed my dressing-table altar...and many other times besides.

When we returned from an out-of-town trip a few weeks ago, we found one of our elderly goats (one of a pair of brothers, the last of dear line of hooved creatures) at what looked like death's door. It wasn't unexpected, but we gave him delicate treats and herbs and tender care and he rallied for awhile, but a few days ago he took a turn for the worse and I knew this was the end of his time with us, sweet Duncan. 

He spent the last few days of his life in his familiar paddock, resting on a thick bed of golden straw, with cloths to keep the flies off and frequent visits from us with water to pour upon his tongue and green leaves to nibble. Wednesday evening when my husband returned from a rehearsal and could be in the house in case Mom woke up, I took myself to the barn with a flashlight and something to lay down on and spent an hour or so with Duncan.

The flashlight was turned off, I was stretched out next to Duncan listening to this breathing and stroking his furry cheek. His brother Mackay was laying in the straw nearby and I listened to Mackay's stomachs gurgle...and Duncan's mostly peaceful breathing...and I watched the canopy of stars beyond the overhanging roof and the fireflies shining out now and then over the paddock and hayfields. I watched planes fly over and thought of the variety of people sitting in all those seats and all they were holding in their minds and hearts...I thought of Bob and Dotty in their  house in Florida and hoped they were having moments of mostly peace, as well. When Duncan called out now and then and feebly moved his legs, I stroked his legs and murmured endearments and comforting words and was grateful that the episodes quickly passed...and I thought some more about Dotty and Bob...and also about my mom and myself and how I hope that we will be able to be together and as peaceful as possible at home when it is her time to take leave...

More stroking and listening and watching and meditating, until I left Duncan with a kiss...peacefully sleeping. A tiny bit of water and a few leaves the next morning before I had to go into town, and another kiss...then a phone call in the afternoon from my husband to let me know that Duncan had gone. When I came home, I found that my husband had added Duncan's name to those of Bob and Dotty that I had spelled out a few weeks ago, near the beginning of the last part of their journey together. And then this morning I found this when I checked Bob's blog.

Sweet Dotty. Sweet Duncan....I don't want anyone to think I am being disrespectful or in any way comparing Dorothy Olive DeMarco's life or passing with our dear goat's...not at all. But they have been woven together in my days this last while...woven together with the love and the stars and the tending and the fireflies and the caring and the peace and the Life within and around it all.

Friday, May 18


I read this last night in my current novel...

If happiness was now beyond his reach, he could at least know respite, and respite, with its lifelong rhythm, can in the awareness of it be called by the name of peace.

"But there must be no before or after," said Sally.

He looked at her with polite astonishment, and she laughed.

"Please forgive me!" she said. "I was thinking of moments of respite. One can't get the most out of them unless one treats them as the next thing: as though it were the only thing. I mean, if you think about the toothache that has just stopped, it so easily becomes the toothache that is going to begin again, and all your peace is lost."

Except for a few hours on Mothers Day when part of our extended family was gathered together for a few hours, I have had ten days of respite from caregiving. The first few days with Mom in the care of a dear lady whom she loves and trusts in town (who used to manage the respite care that Mom attends now and then) and the last several with Mom in the care of one of my brothers at her beach house. The first few days found my husband and I in Asheville NC steeping ourselves in the vibrant, warm atmosphere and celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. And the last several days have been spent at home with me straying no further than the edges of the waving hayfields. Heaven.

At the beginning of our respite, I found myself now and then more nights without the glowing monitor by my bedside...six more days when I can flit in and out of the house and do and go wherever I want without a thought...five more nights of staying in bed the entire night and early morning, without a single trip down the hall and no long minutes watching the monitor in the wee hours...four more days of working in the garden for as long as I like without the monitor beeping in and out of range constantly or needing to worry whether Mom will be happy for another minute or two as she sits nearby...three more days with little routine and long hours of quiet and no need to speak or encourage or cajole or instruct...and then I read those words last night and stopped thinking about before or after this wonderful, generous period of respite. 


Tomorrow I will take up my sweet burden again. And the respite will come around again, as well. And not just the week every three months that my brothers aim to provide, but the every-other-week sleepover that we are trying to make a habit with the same dear lady in town, and the Thursday afternoons at the respite at the church when I do my errands and enjoy a few town hours on my own, and the moments I try to weave into each day...listening to the mockingbird in the sweet night over the gentle hum of the monitor, the ten minutes of weeding before Mom wakes up in the morning, the time with my novel and a cup of something while Mom naps, the moments when we are side by side together and she is content...