It is 278 miles from our house in Katy to the apartment in the memory care facility where Peggy’s Mom lives in the Dallas area. Peggy drives it at least twice each month to go check on her mother. Sometimes I go with her and sometimes I stay in Katy and take care of the animals.
Peggy is the youngest child in her family. Unfortunately, her sister lives in Tucson and her brother lives in Seattle, so Peggy is the closest family member by a long shot. Fortunately, she loves her Mama and is happy to be the one taking care of her. But a thousand miles a month going back and forth is tough.
The emotional toll is the toughest. Because Mary has Alzheimer’s, she doesn’t understand why she is no longer living in her home of nearly fifty years. On every trip Peggy has to explain to her mother that she has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and watch her mother react to the news like she is hearing it for the first time. I honestly don’t know how Peggy does it.
Peggy and her mother have always been very close. Peggy was the later-in-life blessing that her parents never knew they needed until she arrived. She and her mom were more like friends than mother-daughter — sometimes that is not the healthiest of relationships — so for Peggy, this journey is impacting her in more than just the traditional way.
This is the part of getting older they don’t tell you about. But Peggy is tough. And she loves her Mama.
I asked Peggy a couple of weeks ago if she was getting tired of the driving. Of course she is, but that was not her answer. She said she hasn’t even begun to approach how far her mother went for her.
Peggy and I are back in Lake Charles this weekend. We just decided we needed to get away for a couple of days, and nothing helps Peggy relax like endless hours by the pool followed by endless hours in front of a slot machine.
I am up in our room at the hotel — a suite this time due to L’Auberge largesse — and a picture popped up on my computer from ten years ago. Here is the picture:
This is a picture from my son’s eighth grade play (yes, that makeup and costume were created by eighth-graders — unbelievable). The show was incredible and he was even incredibler. Truly the king of the forest.
It got me started thinking about how quickly time passes. When that picture was taken, my mother had been dead for less than a year. Peggy’s parents both attended the production. A little over two years later her father would pass away. Her mother is now dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.
We lived in the same town we live in now but in a different house. We moved into our house that summer, so we have been living in our house for almost ten years. I have never lived in a house that long in my entire life. I have changed employers twice since this picture was taken. My son has graduated from LSU and is now three years into his professional life.
I remember every detail of that play. Peggy was the choreographer, so she and Mike were at rehearsal for hours. I would sneak up to the school to watch them both work. Mike was running track at the same time, so I would take him to the meets and then we would hustle back to the school for rehearsals. It just doesn’t seem possible that it was ten years ago.
But it was.
Earlier this week I was scanning old photographs of our lives, but I didn’t come across this one from the play — most of the pictures I was looking at were much older. It is even harder to believe how long ago those memories took place.
Today was a truly interesting day. Peggy and I got a new printer recently, and it includes a scanner. I have never been particularly interested in having a scanner, so it has taken me a while to warm up to the idea.
It was cold this morning when I got out of bed, so I waited to walk. Peggy was asleep. I didn’t want to turn on the television and wake her up, so I was looking for something to do. I was looking in a cabinet in our dining room for something totally unrelated when a folder full of photographs fell out of the cabinet. As I was picking them up to put away I noticed that some of them were showing wear on the edges (perhaps from falling on the floor repeatedly) and that the colors on some were beginning to fade. This discovery led me to open the other boxes and envelopes of pictures and notice the same thing.
In the same cabinet lives the aforementioned printer/scanner combo. An idea sprang to mind. If I am honest, that idea was “Peggy really needs to scan all of these pictures so that we can have them on the computer.” However, since she was asleep I decided to mess with it a little bit. You know, it would help me give her instructions later about what I wanted done.
Three hours later Peggy walks in with a cup of coffee and I am elbows deep in photographs. It took me a few tries to figure out the scanner, but after that I was just plowing through pictures. I could have gone faster but each one made me pause and remember when it was taken and what was happening at the time. School pictures, sports team pictures, church directory pictures, everything had been stuck in this cabinet. Then I found a box that contained old snapshots. The memories were running rampant while I was working.
Peggy and I went and did all the things we do on Saturday in the spring. After running all of our errands and going out to lunch, I was itching to get back to the photographs. It’s not an obsession, but it is an objective now. After I have finished the “loose” pictures, I will get to work on scanning the ones in albums, like our wedding pictures. That’s a little more delicate work because they have been stuck in that album for more than twenty-five years.
We finished our day doing our favorite thing in the world — sitting on the back porch with a fire, listening to music and talking. After looking at memories all day long there was a lot to talk about, and the music brings back even more memories.
Fortunately, there was a lot of fuel in the yard to keep the fire burning. We used every bit of it.