Monday, November 5, 2007

The Oregon Trail

My wonderful neighbors have moved to Portland. Now, they didn't take a covered wagon, but their journey has been rough and painful. We moved in almost four years ago across the street from Al and Feta. Feta was in good shape and loved to work in their yard. I noticed something was a little off when she asked me after we had been their for three months if we had moved in yet. We had four busy children at that time and they have a lot of busy friends, so I thought it was strange that she didn't realize we were moved in. She stopped working in the yard and began looking very fragile. One day while out walking with her sister we met in the little park next to our homes. She asked me if I had any children. I knew at that point what was going on. Feta was traveling the rutty, hard, dusty, stormy road of Alzheimer's. We had to make sure that the children knew so they could help if she ever wondered off or seemed very confused. Al takes such beautiful care of her. And he still took beautiful care of the others in the cul-de-sac. Al is still extremely spry for being a man who fought in World War II for the Scandinavian Special Forces. He was at the Battle of the Bulge. Al always had a big hug for me and a kiss on the cheek. He gave my youngest son his old, beautiful drafting table, light, and boxes and boxes of markers, pastels, etc... He sent off to National Geographic for a beach ball globe for our Callie. She was thrilled. He would help with everyone's trashcans and gave me his coupons.

Al realized that he was at an age that something could happen to him and Feta might not remember how to get help. He knew it was time to move to a safer place for both of them. So, after living in the same home since 1973, Al and his daughter cleaned out and prepared for Portland. The last few days were so confusing for Feta. Why were they packing and getting rid of things, why were they staying with friends? They didn't bring her back to the house after the moving truck was loaded. It would have been too much. I can't imagine living in the same house thirty-four years and the next day be in a completely different environment. From warm to cold, from familiar to everything strange. My heart breaks for her and the confusion she must be trying to sort out right now. My heart breaks for Al as he helps her deal with it, watches her fade, and misses his home. My heart breaks for Chrystal as she gets them settled in and watches her mother fade.

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