First appeared in the Norwalk Patch:
Physical strength is measured by what we can carry; spiritual by what we can bear.
The caregiver pulled his car into the nursing home parking lot. Rhinestone Cowboy, the country song made famous by Glen Campbell, faded with the sound of the car engine. His reprieve from the day-to-day worries over an ailing father, an Alzheimer’s disease sufferer, was at an end. His brother had suggested the road trip. The weekend admiring fall foliage and reminiscing over the family had been a bittersweet event. The highlight of the trip had been a joint viewing of embroidered narratives by Holocaust survivor, Esther Krinitz, at a local museum. Her stitch-by-stitch tale of horrors encountered during World War II provided evidence of a sharp memory, unlike the jumbled thoughts of his father.
He had seen the warning physical signs marking the onset of his father’s disease and watching the progressive deterioration had taken a toll on his own well-being. He had needed coping tips and the support of a sibling. He felt rejuvenated, knowing that his cry for help after succumbing to caregiver burnout, had not fallen on deaf ears. He signed his name in the nursing home guest book, punched the door code for the Alzheimer’s wing and knocked on his father’s door.
The massage therapist let him into the room. His sister-in-law had suggested the therapist’s services as a birthday treat for his mute father. When he saw the light in the old man’s eyes, he knew that she had been right. His father had responded to the warmth of the therapist’s caring touch. His own gruff expression softened as he held his father’s hand. The meeting was brief, because there was nothing left to say anymore. However, he felt strangely at peace as he returned to his car and switched on the radio. Someone was interviewing former Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’ Connor, on one of the stations. The interviewer gingerly enquired about her late husband, who had died of the disease in 2009, before shifting back to the more comfortable terrain of her illustrious career.
He reached his home and sorted through the pile of papers and magazines on the kitchen table. A Time magazine article about new biomarkers for detecting the memory-robbing illness in its earliest stages, caught his eye. Another piece of paper about Glen Campbell’s brave fight with Alzheimer’s disease fell to the floor. He would have to read that article another time. He first needed to figure out where to come up with the next month’s payment for his father’s nursing home stay. He balanced his checkbook and marked the calendar. Next week he would attend a caregivers’ support group meeting. The topic would be art and music therapy for Alzheimer’s disease. The purpose that an early-Alzheimer’s-disease sufferer found in Poetry, would also strengthen each member of the group. His courage returned because he could now rely on the support and understanding of other people.