Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Always Looking for Answers

Writing in a private journal doesn't help me think things over like it used to. I've filled dozens of them over the years, and that process undoubtedly protected my sanity many times. The slow, longhanded action of it was a catalyst for sorting out my latest confusion and making, if not complete sense of it, at least enough to snap the journal shut and go on about the business of life for the moment.

At some point, from years of emailing, I could no longer stand the slowness of handwriting. My brain was out of synch with my pen, and I got more agitated instead of less if I wrote that way.

Then I got in the habit of writing personal things on this blog. I'm still not sure this is a good idea, but the impulse to do it is too strong to squelch. I cringe mightily sometimes when I look back at things I've written. But I still do it. It's a pressing need to push certain experiences out into the blog-light of day. I send them out like disoriented orphans, their eyes squinting in the sun, to walk around the neighborhood, hoping someone will recognize them.

When I was home in Indiana last weekend, my mom was ready to get out of the house and do something. (During my visit in October she was too sick with the stomach flu to do anything but barf and sleep.) She wanted to go to the mall one town away to look for some pants and shirts for my dad. Then we would eat somewhere and come home.

When we got there, I dropped her off at the back of the mall, at Penneys, and then drove to the front entrance. My dad is struggling to walk these days, but refuses to use a cane or walker. So my plan was to get him as close to the door as possible, then borrow one of the mall's wheelchairs for him. We went inside, me holding his arm. His shuffle gets confused, and he also cannot stand straight up anymore. So already the laws of physics are against him.

He got going too fast. I told him to slow down. He kept going faster, I kept trying to slow him down. He went faster. Then he fell. He was too heavy for me to hold up, and all I could do is make his fall more of a collapse. There he was, lying on his left side on the floor of the mall. I felt like I was having a car accident. The slow motion, the shock, the sick feeling.

Panicky, I yelled: "Somebody help us!" My dad was embarrassed by that. I was embarrassed. And I was mad at both of us for being embarrassed.

People came to help. By a nice grace note of divine intervention, the first person to approach us was a nurse. She understood exactly how to get Dad up without hurting him, and helped me get him to a bench in the mall. A second good samaritan took my driver's license so she could use it to go borrow a wheelchair. She came hurrying back as the nurse was making sure once more that Dad wasn't dizzy or in pain. I thanked both people profusely.

I tried to gauge my level of "upsetness." I always do this. I'm always very suspicious of myself in situations that upset me. Am I over-reacting? Am I being a wimp? Should I be able to keep from crying? What the hell is wrong with me? How would a better, more capable person handle this?

My gauge wouldn't work. I felt as though I was going back and forth inside. First turning to concrete, then cold muddy water, then back. I wheeled Dad the length of the mall, him asking several times "Where's your mother?" She's in Penneys, I told him. We're on our way to meet her. How do you like this ride? "Nice," he said.

There was Mom, trying to find his size of corduroy pants. I told her what happened. I almost didn't.

When Dad needed to use the bathroom, I propped the men's room door open with the wheelchair and went inside with him, making sure he got into a stall OK, and I was mentally daring anyone to bitch about it. I would've welcomed it. I wanted someone to punch.

Besides the complete horror I felt seeing my dad so vulnerable when he fell, the other thing that I will never forget is how it felt to be wheeling him through the mall, looking at the putridly artificial Seasons Greetings-themed store windows, hearing the mediocre brass quartet playing "Silver Bells" and breathing in the oppressive scents of vanilla and cinnamon and pine from the festive holiday candle kiosk. It was, very pointedly, the most empty feeling I have ever had in my life.

Mom shopped a little more while I wheeled Dad around. He had totally forgotten he had fallen. This, I suppose, is one blessing of Alzheimers.

And here I am, slicing open the whole ordeal in a "public" forum. I know I'm just one of millions of bloggers who do this. I wonder if our motivation is similar. For me it's this: I want to know how other people live, I want them to tell me how they get through the hard parts, where they draw strength, what enrages them, what makes them feel full-blast joy, what makes them want to give up. And somebody has to go first.


  • At 4:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That had to be horrific. And I'm so glad that nurse was there. Yes, and there are times when I've felt the same confusion you so eloquently write about. What helps me go on? An odd kind of faith that the Pope wouldn't call really Catholic, a grandson, a son, and friends to lean on once in a while.
    And, a job that has its crazy moments, but that I crave to get up and go to every morning of the work week.
    And, four cats and a garden.
    And, how the birds sound when they're waking up and I'm sitting cozy in my reading room.
    Loving people and things that I know won't last, just as I won't, and loving the time I'm given to do it.
    Love, Anita

  • At 7:29 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Sometimes if I don't leave a comment, it's not because I'm not reading--it's because I have no words to say, nothing of value to add. I don't have anything of value now, either, except to say that was terrible and moving and human all at once, and I'm very glad you wrote it. And, I agree with your last paragraph wholeheartedly.

    I hope the rest of your visit goes better, though.

  • At 7:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    First, I would not call your reaction an overreaction. I think it was a totally normal reaction. Please don't second-guess yourself.

    The problem I have is that I often don't feel anything when these types of things are happening. Something inside of me shuts down. Almost like an emergency cutoff. It's like my emotions have to shut down because otherwise I'll suffer from system overload and be totally incapable of doing anything. And the bad thing about that is that it all catches up with me later and hits me like a ton of bricks. All of it coming at once, rather than just dealing with it and feeling it when it is happening. It takes a long time to recover. Even now as I think back to some of these moments, I remember that I was in a total state of denial. I cannot write about it all here, so I hope that what I am saying is at least making some sense.

    I have also found writing to be the greatest tool for trying to sort out my feelings. It seems to be the only way I can ever come close to adequately putting them into words. And like you, I now have a hard time writing in a journal and find typing on a keyboard to be the only way I can keep up with my thoughts.

    I wish I had some advice to give you in all of this. The problem is that I don't deal with this stuff. So I think you're much further along on that journey than I am. I think it's good that you have feelings about it. Even if you don't really know what to do with them, or how to handle them, at least you are feeling something.

    As for what helps me go on, I'd have to say faith, family, and friends. And sometimes I think back to what I have been through and see how I came out of those circumstances, and that gives me the strength to move forward.

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

  • At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey Candy - my experiences were very similar with my mom when she was in her beginning stages of dementia - so similar to Alzheimers. She fell once when I was alone at my home with her and I couldn't help her up. It was such a helpless feeling for both my mom and myself. I had to find a neighbor to come and help me. I think I cried too. At that point I realized the care she needed was beyond what I could do alone. I also remember that embarrassed feeling but that quickly gave way when my kind neighbor was so caring and sweet - a nurse as well.

    Anyway, keep up the good work - you really are doing much more than you realize for your parents. Treasure every moment you have with them - good and bad - they will too. I miss my mother more than I ever thought possible and would give anything to have her back. I thought it would get easier with time but it hasn't really.
    MLE - know who I am??

  • At 9:42 AM, Blogger Domhan said…

    If you haven't already, please, please, please read Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams. Then email me. I'll tell you things about meeting this amazing author.

    I think this book will speak to you.

  • At 9:47 AM, Blogger mgm said…

    I echo what Mel said. Candy, that kind of helplessness is a horrible feeling and I've known it. Watching my 92 year old great grandmother slowly melt away in a hospital when I was 13. My obstinate, defiant 91 year old grandmother break (literally) after a final fall led to a broken hip.

    What gets anyone through any of it is sometimes beyond me. Sometimes it's sharing your story and hearing others. Sometimes it's turning off the phone and sitting in the quiet. And sometimes it just holding your head up and hanging on for dear life.

    You will be okay, Candy. It isn't easy. But you are loved.

  • At 12:04 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Thank you for that list, Anita. It is very you. Especially the birds.

    Mel, the rest of the visit did go better, at least less eventfully. I soaked up every speck of being with them, and of the Indiana scenery. It was like landing back on my own planet.

  • At 12:06 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Thanks for all the comments. It took over 2 hours to write that post, because it was twice as long and got bizarre and then I couldn't find the "point" and got mad at myself and ate chocolate and drank what can only be called a vat of Pepsi.

    It really does help to be able to write it here. One more step in handling it.

  • At 12:09 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    MLE, Of course I know you who are! I will never forget going with you to gather your mom's things. Her bedside book, her hairbrush. It felt like an honor to be with you right then.

    Not that it DIDN'T feel like an honor to be with you during our lunches out, discussing unspeakable things. :)

  • At 12:15 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Futuresis, you make perfect sense. Which makes me really mad because you are way younger than me and so should be stupid. Stupider.

    Mad Grad, you come from good stock, don't you? I can see you at 90, totally chewing out your grandkids.

    Domhan, never heard of that book. I'll look it up. I've missed out on a lot of cool things you've done. You met her?

  • At 12:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Forgive me for mentioning this...
    Anger shouts from the words when you describe having to help your Father in the bathroom. Wanting to punch someone if they dare question what you are doing.

    Your anger is frustration. You now live miles from home and can't help as much as you want. You are frustrated this is happening to such a wonderful man. You wanted to strike out at something real. Or someone. Because of the unfairness of it.
    But, truth be told, no one would question you. They would more than likely help you. Like the nurse.
    I hope this comes across the way it is intended. To help...
    Your feelings of anger or frustration, while understandable, are inevitable. Try not to fall into the trap of blaming others. There is nothing to be done but cope as best you can. And talk with people about your frustration. Your husband, Scott would be a good one to talk with over a cup of tea. We are all getting there with our parents too.

    There. See. I have intruded too much for my own taste. I am like Mel. I sometimes don't feel I should contribute, just listen. Ignore this old man. He means well, though.

  • At 12:45 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    I'm already aware of everything you wrote. I knew it was a jarring sensation of helplessness that was making me crave a punching bag.

    However, at that very same food court bathroom, I have seen a mindless mall "security" guy harrass someone for the same behavior, although the genders were reversed. (A guy helping his mom.) So I was on guard because of a precedent.

    I don't blame others. How could I blame someone for the fragility of an 89-year-old man? Who would I blame? God? I already have. I give him my input frequently. Because I'm certain he needs me to help Him run the universe. Wait, I think that's him IM-ing me right now. It seems there's a need for my assistance in the Congo.

    Please don't take this snarkiness personally. I don't mind "intrusion" at all. I invite it with the subject matter and the personal disclosure. Although I admit I'm a little less comfortable with anonymous posts.

  • At 12:50 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    p.s. I do agree with you though, about people. They tend to step up to the plate.

    Years ago I was driving on the highway and about a quarter mile up ahead I saw a Jeep suddenly flip over and tumble down a ravine. At first I thought I had imagined it.

    I stopped, and there were 2 very good things to witness:

    1. The 2 guys (idiots without seatbelts) were OK somehow.

    2. The dozen or so people who had stopped were doing everything they could to help. Those who were not needed to deal directly with the 2 guys were picking up scattered cassette tapes and books. This was all in a massively muddy ravine. A woman in her 60s was trying to get down to the accident but kept getting her feet stuck. She fell on her butt in the mud and said "Well I'm a big help." It was encouraging to see that.

  • At 1:16 PM, Blogger Domhan said…

    Yes, Candy. I met her just last night, which makes your post, your situation (with your father AND of you living in the desert), my reading of her book this semester, and the discussion I had with her yesterday all the more amazing.

    Are convergences like these coincidences? What do they mean? Whose hand is there that puts you, the 60-year-old woman, 2 idiots in a Jeep, and a dozen other people in the same place at the same time? Who put the nurse there when a nurse was the one person who could help you the most? Why is it that the very day you happen to think about TV's Patrick Duffy that you see a VH1 flashback about Dallas?

  • At 1:22 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Haaaa! Patrick Duffy.

    The way things line up is mind blowing. The way Scott and I met screams of synchronicity/Divine choreography.

    It all makes me crazy. Which is why I put a cat suit on and sit by the window looking out.

  • At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Think you acted admirably--you did a wonderful thing in a very painful situation. And I'm so glad that people reacted as they did. Would such people turn up here in the Big Town? I'd like to think they would, despite the city's rep for brutal callousness.

    You wrote a very serious and reflective essay, but there was a a reminder of the comic/satirical CR in the brief glance at the way-before-Xmas mall. I could smell the scented candles, see the plastic wreaths in the Radio Shack windows and sense the awful, spectural gloom.

  • At 3:10 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Radio Shack. Perfect.
    Tony, you'd have lost your mind over the brass quartet.

    When we first got to the mall parking lot, I heard a trumpeter, but didn't see him. Just a lone trumpet sound, playing something unrecognizable in the parking lot. I thought the angel Gabriel had come.

  • At 4:03 PM, Blogger Citlali said…

    Great picture of Hankie, btw -- classic cat picture, looks just like my Yoshi... She's a window addict. ha. = ]

    And how cool -- I just love the people that gather at your blog, Candy. They are all so very companssionate, thoughtful and eloquent. There's so much of what was already said here that's just so priceless and perfectly said. You're a strong person and you have amazing family and friends, the best things in the world to help you through all this. You have my best wishes always. = ]

  • At 4:25 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Citlali...I'm endlessly grateful for those people, you included.

    Also, for the chance to stay in touch via the computer. 20 years ago, a lot of these friendships might have gone by the wayside just because of my laziness to write letters or call.

  • At 4:43 PM, Blogger Citlali said…

    Thank you, Candy, I'm glad to have met you online as well. I totally know what you mean about friendships and keeping them. Internet is awesome.

    Oh, and I had forgotten to include in my previous comment: And thank God for kitties too! They make everything in life that much better, no? yeah. = ]

  • At 4:59 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Holding Hankie on my lap has been like magic sometimes. When no other attempt at relaxation works, he is like a little meditative expert filling the room.

    And he pays no attention to anything bothersome when it is time to lick his paws.

  • At 7:04 PM, Blogger Dana said…

    I didn't want to respond this morning because I didn't have time to put thought into my response.
    Then this evening I see the outpouring of love and encouragement and I truly feel there is not much to add. I am glad for you to be surrounded by so many who care.

    I want you to know that I am blessed, truly blessed by your blog. I love that you are so real and very transparent here. I try to do the same on my blog as well, most times it is heart wrenching.

    Writing, whether good or bad, has always been my escape. Well, writing and dark chocolate, yum.

    And like the others, if not for my faith, my family and my friends, I would have succumbed to the lie that its not worth it. (Otherwise known as depression.)

    Keep working through the muck.:)

  • At 7:12 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…


    Thank you for adding what you did, even though you thought it had all been said. It's always good to hear from you.

    Part of the way this blog helps me survive is that I find out it's OK to feel like crap when something is so dismal. Not permanently, but when I need to.

    The whole gratitude thing has never become second nature to me. I always have to force myself to be grateful. My general tendency is toward the bleak.

    For awhile I kept a journal where all I wrote were 5 things I was thankful for, every night before bed. Sometimes one of those things would be "I'm grateful today is over." But still, it was gratitude.

    Have a great weekend, Dana.

  • At 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Watching a car wreck in slow motion. That's how I feel about my mom's descent into mental illness. I can't do a damned thing and it all occasionally comes slamming into me, nearly drowning me. All I can do is wait. There is a phone call coming that I don't want to take. She'll be injured or beaten to within an inch of her life or someone will have assaulted her again or she'll be in lock-down again or jail again or dead. It's coming. I'll just have to wait. This life is unkind. There is pain and suffering and horror. There are even people who have it worse than we do. What gives? What's the point? So much deep specific personal suffering and so much universal suffering. My only hope is that God loves me, that there is a plan, that this is not the end, and that there will be a reckoning.

    Forget psychology. We really don't have to come to grips with it right now--as if we could, it just resurfaces. We just have to survive it and ride our feelings out and keep moving forward.

    When my great aunt Lima was in the last years of her life she had a death experience in the hospital. They revived her and she was mad as hell about it. She said it was beautiful and she didn't want to be here knowing that she could have been there. She looked forward to dying every day of her life after that and when she did, we were all pretty peaceful about it because we knew she's already been there and it was where she'd wanted to go. I got the distinct idea that she was somewhere redecorating. I'm going to ask her about that when I get there.

    We live here and now so when here and now gets dicey and painful we forget the overwhelming reality of the eternal There and Then, but it's coming, and therein lies our hope.

    No atheists in a foxhole, eh? I'll stick an extra prayer on for you.

  • At 8:41 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Ana, I know you've gone through all flavors of Hell with your mother. The long drawn outness of it is the worst part.

    I'm pretty sure there's a great afterlife. It's the final hoops we have to jump through to get there that are wildly discouraging. The part where you watch the decline of the ones you don't think you can live without.

    I'm doing a lot of flailing these days. But there is also something that feels good about that, like the priorities are no longer the least bit fuzzy.

    Thanks, Ana. I'll throw one on for you too.

  • At 8:41 AM, Blogger Jerry said…

    I have had similar experiences with my Mom. You do a wonderful job describing the riot of divergent emotions that accompany the care of an aging, helpless loved one. Scott is lucky to have you to look out for him when he becomes senile.

    If he is already, please let me know; I really like his wit and banter. It gives me hope for my encroaching senility.

  • At 12:14 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Of COURSE he's senile! How do you think I talked him into marrying me?

  • At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm not senile.

    Am I?

  • At 9:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Not senile. Sterile. Totally different.

  • At 9:49 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    He's only sterile because of that horrible boating accident.


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