Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Life's Serious Moments

Every now and then something happens that stops me in my tracks. A friend tells me about a family member or co-worker experiencing something awful...death, cancer, a serious accident. I try to offer words of comfort or encouragement but often feel lost about what to say. It typically makes me contemplate my life and the many blessings I have. More often than not I internalize things and get quieter than usual, much to my wife's dismay. After some time my life continues on as normal and I don't think about their situations as often. And I feel guilty for being so selfish.

A couple weeks ago the bad news hit a little closer to home. My father-in-law, Bob, was given a preliminary diagnoses of the early onset of Alzheimer's. We had noticed that his memory had been slipping over the past few years and there were other signs that things weren't quite right but it happened so gradually and it's easy to make excuses. We started to suspect something a bit more serious may be going on when his younger brother was diagnosed with the disease about a year ago. Lisa was with her dad at the doctor's office while he was taking the test. She could see in his eyes that he knew he wasn't doing as well as he had when he had taken the test previously. She's putting up a strong front right now but I know she's scared about what the future holds. I know Bob is scared, too. Being a retired firefighter he isn't going to let his fear show. For now I'm trying to be supportive and available to listen when someone needs to talk. That's hard for me because generally I try to offer solutions on what I think it will take to fix something. This isn't really all that fixable.

We're committed to doing whatever we need to do to help but we don't know what that really means right now. My father-in-law is 72. His mother just passed away this past year at age 94. This has the potential to stretch out over a very long period of time. I've seen what Alzheimer's has done to other people but never this close to me. It can be a cruel illness that robs you of your dignity, that much I do know. 

Bob has an appointment in February to see a neurologist. We'll find out more about the potential course of treatment at that time. I'm sure they'll prescribe some drugs to help him in the short term. In the meantime we'll do some research and try to figure out what we're going to be able to do to try and help. I'm pretty certain this will be something we'll be working with for awhile.

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