(Real-time entry)

I am still under the weather but I am slowly healing, both emotionally and physically.  My medications (from my ER visit 9 days ago) have been downgraded, and now I am working on getting my voice back after a serious head cold struck next. 

So even though I’m not yet totally “back”, I wanted to post an entry today with the latest news:  The in-home care workers who “allegedly” robbed us had their arraignment today… and we are goin’ to trial!  🙂

The defendants were each held over with $100,000 bond and spent their day being led in handcuffs from jail to jail!  I hope they had a VERY LONG DAY.  As of writing this, I have not received word of them posting bond.  I hope that their families choose to or are forced to leave them in jail for the next 2 weeks leading up to their February 1st preliminary hearing.  I think a couple of weeks in lock-up would do them some good.  Let them REALLY THINK about what they did to one of the nicest, most loving households in America! 

As I walked into the courthouse this morning, I was calm and all business.  Waiting together in the courtroom hallway with my mom and Uncle Al, we were physically close to AJ and Matt (the two suspects) for about an hour.  I know my mother found pleasure in finally being able to “look them in the eyes”.  I kept to myself.  When our case was called, my family took the front row and I reached in my purse for my good luck charm.  I pulled out my little red teddy bear, Sparky, and Mom and I held hands during the case with Sparky amidst our fingers.  While we all waited for the judge to review their file, the courtroom became very quiet.  In the silence I closed my eyes and said a prayer.  I said, God, if there is yet ANOTHER lesson for me to learn here with this one, then let it be.  But I truly think that the lesson this time is for THEM.  You decide and let the lesson unfold as it should.  With that, I opened my eyes, the case unfolded, and they were held over for trial with a nice sized bond!  Walking out of the courthouse, a small piece of justice seemed to glitter through the gray morning skies.

Part of me is excited that we’re going to trial!  And, without a doubt, part of me is relieved that this was not yet another lesson for ME after the long three-year pile of lessons I’ve waded through.  I’m tired, I’ve changed for the better, I’m clear, I get it.  Let’s move on.  Let’s let ME move on.  It’s time.

With my dad proverbially locked up and now these boys in jail, it leaves me out here FREE and feeling that there is SO MUCH ahead for me to accomplish!  Making my movie, making a difference in people’s lives, making a difference in the world, meeting new friends, reconnecting with old ones, falling in love, discovering new beginnings and – oh, yes – that sensation of adventure and true happiness blended together as one!  Ahhhhh… I can’t wait to have THAT weightless feeling again.

NOTE: Because WDIV-Channel 4-Detroit covered our robbery story exclusively on December 17, 2009, they posted an article update today on their site.  However, because the WDIV website is constantly updated, this story may move again which will make this link invalid:

http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/21998097/detail.html

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(REAL-TIME ENTRY)

I haven’t written in a full week because I wanted to be PRESENT for every little moment of Christmastime.  My camera has been rolling regularly, but to close myself off for hours in the office to type was just too much time with Mom and Dad for me to sacrifice.  There is a fine line of truly living in the moment versus trying to document everything.  I chose to be where I thought I belonged this week.

Dec. 23 was our annual Firek Xmas with Dad’s family: his two local brothers, my six cousins plus their kids, spouses, and my immediate family.  It was meaningful for everyone to have Dad present, and I found it beautiful that everyone wanted to know how to meet him best on his terms: if it was okay to hug him, talk to him, etc.  I told them to walk up to him, give him a big hug like usual, and include something like, “Hi, Uncle Frank, it’s me, Jason!”  Just like when interacting with someone with a physical impairment, I find that the stigma associated with this disease is that if people don’t understand the degradation or aren’t comfortable redefining their interactions, then they’ll probably just ignore the person.  And that’s about the worst thing that could happen.  My dad still loves people, and socializing, and hugging and touching!  Bring it on!  Make him smile!!

The climax of our Dec. 23 celebration was the gift-giving and Mom helping Dad deliver his annual Twas the Night Before Christmas poem to the crowd.  Much like how you can sing along effortlessly to a song on the radio but could never remember all the words on your own, Dad kept in time with the lines as Mom recited them with him.  If she paused, Dad would quickly get stuck and wait for her.  And he wasn’t addressing the crowd like the age-old performer he is; instead, he was looking into Mom’s eyes as if they were playing a game together.  He participated in the gift exchange as much as possible, but I kept an eye on him and realized that he wasn’t as present as the rest of us – but he was still making a special appearance in his own way.  After the hilarious yet over-stimulating White Elephant gift exchange, Mom lovingly passed out a matching gift for each person present.  The reactions were beautiful as people realized that they now held Dad’s long-awaited autobiography in their hands, with a personalized, heartfelt and handwritten note inside the front cover by my mother.  Dad was pretty oblivious to the emotional charge in the air.  He keeps forgetting that his book has arrived and even sometimes that he wrote a book. 

My cousin Danny walked up and asked Uncle Frank if he’d autograph his book; my dad obliged with the help of my mother and the signature shockingly resembled his old penmanship!  Then my Aunt Liz approached Dad for a 2nd autograph and you could see the moment his brain broke from the over-stimulation and over-processing.  His signature continued on for 2-3 lines with the same loop-de-loop, and then he turned to my Mom and said, “I don’t want to… do this anymore.  I’m… I’m not having fun here.”  The look on his face was intense and stern, and I immediately took his arm and guided him gently upstairs to a quiet place by the Christmas tree where his mind could settle.  We sat side-by-side on the couch and I stroked his hand endlessly as he sat there with his eyes closed.  The muffled sounds of the party juxtaposed against our quiet moment of solitude just made my heart ache with the sadness of the moment.  It hit me again like a ton of bricks that my dad is departing our world at his own speed.  And like the social, loving gentleman he is, he still wants to participate in the parts he can.  We just have to be sensitive and protect him from the outside forces – sometimes ones that we ourselves force upon him – at the exact proper balance for his own peace of mind.  And this balancing formula comes with an ever-changing scale.  Each time I realize he isn’t keeping up with us anymore, I cry for two reasons: first, I miss him and want him to be with me; secondly, I realize how much he just selflessly gave of himself trying to keep up and make everyone else happy while he himself suffered.  He keeps teaching me beautiful lessons every day.

Two days later, Christmas Day was upon us and Dad had his 4th or 5th good day in a row!  He is finishing some sentences, sometimes even stringing 3 thoughts together in a row (!!!!), using some large vocabulary, shuffling a deck of cards again, and properly associating people he no longer recognizes with their correct spouse or friend.  He amazes me every day! 

For Christmas, I gave him a gift of Magformers which are like magnetic Lego’s®, and he actually used the word “clever” to describe them!  Later, he called them an “optical illusion” – which they are!!  It’s mind-boggling when he seems more present some days than others.  Mom and I think that maybe the constant flow of visitors into our house to care for Dad since the robbery has re-stimulated him in a way that is allowing him to flourish!  And if that is so, we tell ourselves, then he’ll probably do very well at the nursing home where there will be so many people to interact with daily.

There were two things that killed me emotionally on Christmas Day.  Okay, three.  First, that damned “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” song the radio keep playing and playing!  Then every time Dad opened a gift box containing a sweat suit, he didn’t get the tough implication that this was a new outfit for the nursing home we are about to send him off to!  And the third thing that just completely broke my heart was when he said he was ready for bed.  I SOBBED after my brother Frank and 4 year-old nephew Frankie led Dad into his bedroom.  I SO DIDN’T WANT THIS CHRISTMAS TO END…  Because now that means that the end is so much nearer.  And this was probably the last magical Christmas I’ll ever spend with my dad.  It just breaks your heart.

(REAL-TIME ENTRY)

Man, the hits just keep on coming!  My mother went around the house today with a copy of my parents’ Last Will and Testament to see what had been promised on paper to my brothers and me but was now nonexistent.  My poor, poor mother – she discovered yet another treasured item gone!  When she called me today, I was lounging on the couch still shaking off the remnants of last night’s over-the-counter sleeping pill.  My heart sank for her when she told me, but I felt more empty than upset.  Then, about an hour later, while cleaning up and doing dishes, it hit me.  And I started to cry in my kitchen.

JUST when you FINALLY acclimate to a new really, really low spot and a cruddy set of circumstances, there’s MORE!  Right IN your face!  It’s a really tiring game right now of “how low can you go”.  However, despite the regular tears and heartache, I know in my heart that we’re fighters and survivors and good people and that my mom and I are going to make it.  At least we have one another.  And it could be worse – I could NOT be crying, I could be burying all this inside and allowing it to brew into the perfect storm.  But I’m dealing.  We’re coping.  As best we can.  One breath at a time. 

The countless emails and blog comments I’ve received this week have allowed me to miraculously heal while simultaneously grieving.  I am really thankful for that and for everyone from all walks of my life who have bothered to reach out.  That is a beautiful thing.  There IS some immeasurable power in reaching out and sticking together.

One of the countless emails was from my parents’ neighbors, Steve and Noël, and it included this link to a powerful music video.  I had tears streaming down my face the whole time I viewed it.  One Love” by Bob Marley has always been one of my favorite songs that somehow can transport me to “my happy place” no matter my surrounding circumstances.  However, it had a whole new level of meaning for me today as I considered the hundreds of people who have been there for us and who won’t let us go down alone.  “…Let’s get together and feel all right…”

(REAL-TIME ENTRY)

My eyes are blurry with exhaustion as I type this.  As soon as I’m done, I’m heading to bed to pass out (at 5pm!).  WHAT a whirlwind 24 hours we’ve had!

First off, in order to give my mom some much-needed time and space for unplugging from the constant madness swirling around her, I sent her and Mary (one of her high school best friends who flew up from Florida to support us for a whole week) on a local 24-hour hotel/spa package getaway.  I hooked them up with top-of-the-line service and amenities and prayed that she’d be able to decompress some before Christmas hits next week and then we admit my dad into Sunrise Assisted Living the next week.

However, shortly after their arrival at the hotel as they were just beginning to settle in, the detective investigating our in-home robbery called my mom with the news that the two male punks who worked for us were now both in jail!  (Here she goes again getting sucked back into the harsh realities of her life…)  Following a lead that one of them had sold a huge batch of jewelry to a local pawn shop last month, the detective arrived at the pawn shop to interview the owner – and IN walked one of the guys with more jewelry to pawn!!!  BUSTED!  His roommate was sleeping in the car outside and they both were led away in cuffs!

The upsetting news (besides confirming that these boys had smiled and hugged us daily all the while robbing us under our noses!) was that ALL of our family jewelry was melted down!  The pawn shop owner waited the legal wait period of a mere nine days, then popped out the stones and melted down every last love token of my parents from their 50 years together.

To add insult to injury, the boys got barely ANYTHING for the exchange!  Honest to God, had they just ASKED us for money, I’m sure we would have given them more than that just from the good of our heart!  But, instead, they chose to do THIS TO US???  It makes you want to vomit.

Refusing to leave it there and wanting to warn other families about the potential pitfalls of allowing hired help into your home, I called WDIV (the Detroit NBC affiliate where I used to work as Associate Director) and offered them exclusive coverage of the story – and they said we’d be the lead story at six o’clock!  With my mom in a massage and unreachable, I raced and managed to get the news crew in my parents’ home to tape my interview and meet my father, all before she arrived back home!

(­Click here to watch the WDIV coverage of our story.  NOTE: then scroll down below the video screen, click on the box that reads “Search All Videos” and type Alzheimers, then change “Today” in the next box to “Last 30 Days”, and click on the photo of my parents with the caption “2 Men Accused Of Robbing Alzheimer’s Patient”)

The moment she walked through the door, I told her not to take her coat off – we had to go the police station right away to try to identify more jewelry and they were about to pounce upon the boys’ apartment.  So, with massage oil still in her hair, she and I raced off to the station while she tried to digest that we were going to be on the news in a few hours.  None of the seized jewelry was ours.  My mother requested a silent glare at the two boys behind bars but couldn’t be granted her wish.

Then we raced to Dad’s doctor’s appointment so that his chest X-ray and medical paperwork could get filled out in time for him to enter Sunrise on January 1!  I insisted the doctor also write a few prescriptions for my poor mother who is having the absolute worst week of her entire life and is hanging on by a thread with everything she’s got. 

Thank God for wine.  It really does help the world go ‘round some days.

 

 

**Click to WATCH this LOCAL NEWS STORY!!**

 

 

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I have been posting my story retroactively and linearly, starting with my dad’s initial diagnosis on April 10, 2007.  Staring today, I am shifting the story’s angle to present day.  Going forward, I will designate a REAL-TIME, CURRENT DAY BLOG by italicizing the entry.  This will enable me to update you in real-time about what’s going on in my life (like a true blog), while still allowing me to fill you in intermittently on the past background of the story.

Here goes…

(REAL-TIME ENTRY)

Yesterday morning I received the most harrowing phone call from my mother.  From her voice, I could tell that either someone had died or she was finally having the long-awaited breakdown.

MY PARENTS HAVE BEEN ROBBED AND ALMOST ALL OF OUR FAMILY JEWELRY HEIRLOOMS ARE GONE!!!  My father’s wedding ring, his engraved pocket watch, his $20-gold-coin-and-diamond money clip – all items left to us kids in their Will – GONE!!  Countless rings and bracelets, necklaces and earrings of my mother – GONE!!  Fifty years worth of gifts signifying the love between them have been grotesquely ripped from our lives!

The most harrowing part of the story is that the police investigation is focusing on the 4 in-home care workers who have been helping us take care of my dad over the past number of months; people who have been entrusted with a security entry code and endless hours alone in our home.  One of these people had enough time to locate a hidden safe and learn to crack the code!  One of these seemingly-caring people entered our home under the guise of helping us care for my ailing father and they STOLE from us the only remaining precious items we’re about to have left of him!!

How COULD someone?!!!!  My poor mother had a breakdown yesterday.  I’ve never seen her so distressed nor cry so hard.  She said she can’t do this anymore.  She’s at the end of her rope.  She’s desperately trying to hold on, but it’s fraying.

Here she is being the most courageous and loving person, caring for my dad 24/7 (all while her heart slowly breaks into a million pieces!), finally trusting someone enough to let them in to help share the burden of care giving, finally getting some much-needed sleep, and they do THIS to her?!!!?

After a long, emotional and exhausting day, the bottom line from yesterday is that a crime report has been filed and the in-home care companies have been fired.  Which brings us back to square one: No support system is in place to help us with Dad!

Together Mom and I made the heartbreaking and anguishing decision yesterday afternoon to finally place Dad in a nursing home.  I called Sunrise Assisted Living and committed to a room for Dad beginning January 1st.  When I hung up the phone, I thought I was going to throw up in my lap.  I’m still crying as I type this. This means we have just 3 weeks and 1 day left of our life with Dad at home. 

The fact that someone took advantage of my parents while they are suffering and in such need and distress is severely disheartening, to say the least.  It makes you sick to your stomach.  It almost makes you disappointed in humanity. 

But then my brother and I sent out an emailed cry for help and support last night to our family and family friends – and the outpouring today has been enormous!  It’s these gestures that snap you back and remind you of how much goodness there is in the world.  Thank God we have THESE people surrounding us in our life, helping us to our (proverbial and emotional) finish line.  Because, as Mom and I have learned, we cannot do this alone.