Thursday, January 21, 2016

Times in life when you do not know what to say (or do)

(MY Nephew Howard took this picture of his dad and me. The background is my brothers ships, he hand made a fleet, the largest 9 ft long)
Years ago one of my favorite people in the world, my Nephew Howard said to me, “Uncle Jack, the doctor told me, I have killed myself.”  He went on to tell me when he had a heart attack (only 36, a big strong man, who has a heart attack then?), he mistook it for gas. He had worked until early morning hours and arrived home with a sharp pain in his chest. Did not wake his wife, but he did some jumping jacks and push-ups but it did not relieve the pain. He then  drove to the emergency room. The doctor was talking about the damage he had done to his heart with the exercise, it was now, irreparable.

(This is Howard talking to a local reporter, he was his dad's PR man, this is the day he told me.)

What do you say to someone at that time?

Usually Shirl calls us when some tragedy happens and says turn on the TV, something terrible has happened (she knows we do not watch TV) She called like when the shuttle failed and he twin towers were hit.

 (Jim & Shirl at one of our last family reunions, we  thought Jim would bury us all, he always had perfect health, never any meds)

So we received a call, she put Jim on the phone, “Jack, the doctor just gave me a death sentence, I have esophageal cancer, and it is inoperable.”

At times like that you are at a loss for words,  WORDS do not change the situation.  We know prayer CAN, but not always will.

I said all that to say this, in the past year or so we have been told that a close member of our family and some of our best friends, are afflicted by Alzheimer’s. WHAT CAN YOU DO? WHAT DO YOU SAY?  HOW DO YOU ACT?

We really know about dementia, we have experienced it first hand in caregiving. BUT there are stages of Alzheimer’s that your visit or call will only produce confusion.  No matter how close, you do not want to cause ANY problems to the ones dealing with it, but you do not want to appear to ‘desert’ friends. ‘At present’ the phone calls are left up to Sherry, it is a heavy load she carries and I don’t know even know what to suggest in that area.

My first impression is denial. He/she cannot have Alzheimer’s, the last time we saw them they were fine. BUT down deep I know the victim can cover for a long time with keeping a conversation in general terms. BUT after visiting and seeing for yourself, at some point, it becomes obvious. You know your visit brings confusion, when your good friend asks as you leave  -------- ‘Now who are you?’ ----------

Nite Shipslog


                          The above is a 1959 Chevy and  below is a 1956 Ford!


Lisa said...

Always looking for the right thing to say at times like these can be hard. You know at this point there is nothing you really can say to make one feel better. Ive never been told news of this sort from a friends (yet) but If I ever do, I would want to just say "well we are gonna make the best out of whats left". Then Id pray every day for a miracle.

I dread the day.

Mevely317 said...

This is so tough; my heart hurts for you and Sherry ... for Shirl and Howard's widow, too.
Instinctively, I suppose I'd most appreciate friends/family members' presence. Whether anything's verbalized (or not) is really moot. A hug speaks volumes!

betty said...

With my mother in law, as she had dementia, I think I might have mentioned this already, but I always "met" her where she was at. If she was in the past, so was I. If she was in the present, so was I. If she saw a squirrel in the room, I would just say "oh" and introduce a new topic. It is hard though what to say to someone who tells you about a diagnosis of cancer, dementia,etc. I usually say the standard, I'm so sorry, I'll pray for you, and what can I do, or let me know if there is something I can do for you; but that sometimes seems so shallow. I think though saying something is better than saying nothing.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I had to delete comment because I spelled snow incorrect, now I forgot what I said. I know I was going to tell the weather man said we were having snow
tonight plus freezing rain. Sorry to hear about friend having Alzheimer's.
You were right about Jim he was in good health but cancer doesn't care who
it effects. Will let you know how much snow falls, I will be staying inside.

Rick Watson said...

My mother-in-law had dementia but not Alzheimer's. Still, she was a handful. When relatives visited, we asked them to keep the visits short because her mother could maintain for a short visit, but if they stayed too long, she would get agitated and things went south.

One of our dear friends has a mother and a husband who both have Alzheimer's and she's caring for both of them. To say her bucket is full is a gross understatement. We simply tell her we're thinking about her.
She understands.

Jackie said...

Like you, I don't know what to say, Jack.
I'm sorry to hear about Jim's diagnosis...and I am also sorry to hear that a close member of your family and close friends have Alzheimers.
My husband's Mother had Alzheimers for 15 years before she finally went to be with the Lord.
My heartfelt prayers are with Jim, his wife and all who are loving caregivers of the Alzheimers patients.
Sending love to all of you,

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

It's very hard to express ourselves when something bad happens to our loved ones. Sometimes just being there for them as much as we can does help. When someones memory goes, they still need a friend.