Thursday, October 30, 2014

I took my life back and started living again this year

Mum's Alzheimers was affecting me very badly. I felt like I, too, was just waiting to die. But something happened that made me want to live again.

I don't say much about how I am feeling. But I felt like my life was over. There was nothing to do but watch Mum slowly dying.

I took in a uni student from Nepal. He moved into the granny flat that Mum was supposed to live in, but refused to even go in there and have a look at it. It was hard admitting that she'd never live there and at first I resented the poor kid, who was only 18.

Then he fell off his skateboard and had no-one to turn to for help and that's when I realized he needed a Mum. Poor little bugger. He had a dream to learn to drive and own a car one day. He also dreams of becoming a racing driver.

He wanted to drive and I wanted to teach someone to drive. I am a racing driver. Or, I was, years ago. And so we started driving lessons. At first, it was out in the country, on back roads, because he had to be in Australia for six months before he was allowed to get a learner licence. So we drove illegally, but it didn't matter because there was no traffic.

I'd pack our lunch and drive down the coast to Kangaroo Valley where we'd explore the farm roads. We saw kangaroos, wombats, snakes and echidnas. We'd get out of the car and take photos and videos of the wildlife we encountered. We had such fun. I had forgotten what fun was. We had so much to talk about. I think we were mother and son in some other life.

I had a Volvo station wagon, automatic. Not very exciting for someone like me who loves cars. Eventually the Volvo's engine died, about a year ago. The student said to me, "Why don't you get a car you can race? I can come and help you and be your pit crew."

At first I thought no; I'm too old to race now. Then I got excited by the prospect of entering some hillclimbs and supersprints. I bought a fast BMW and got my racing licence back.

This year I've been competing in the car club championship. I've done very well and have a lot of trophies. The student comes with me and helps out. He absolutely loves it. He still doesn't have his licence but he's going for it in a few weeks. I found him a good part time job and he's going to buy a car soon.

We have driven all over New South Wales. We have done tens of thousands of kilometres. I have taught him advanced driving techniques including defensive driving and I've taught him to drift. When I watch him drive, I see me and it makes me so happy to see what I have achieved. We drive the same way. I also taught my 'other' two kids to drive this way - very expertly and competently. 

To be doing this at my age is so amazing. I am alive again. I am me again. It is like a miracle.

Me in my twenties

At Cooma Hillclimb last weekend

Learner Driver Adventures


Two trophies

The food's not what it pretends to be

Sometimes Mum says funny things. I took her to McDonalds, which she used to love, to try and get her to eat something. She had a lot of trouble with her cheeseburger. I asked why she wasn't eating it.

"The food's not what it pretends to be on the packaging," she said. So true.

She doesn't seem to be enjoying anything any more. I still take her to my place for the day. She's got a lot more quiet and doesn't pace around as much at sundowning time.

I think she's starting to have trouble swallowing. She chews for a very long time, then doesn't want to swallow the food.

She finds it easy to eat ice cream and drinks.

She is also getting very difficult to understand at times. Her speech is becoming garbled. She says sentences that make no sense at all.

I asked her to write on a birthday card the other day and she just put a few lines and scribbles on it. A couple of letters were decipherable.

She usually knows who I am, but probably no-one else at this stage. I am guessing she has reached Stage 7 Alzheimers.

Very severe cognitive decline
(Severe or late-stage Alzheimer's disease)

In the final stage, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. They may still say words or phrases.

At this stage, individuals need help with much of their daily personal care, including eating or using the toilet. They may also lose the ability to smile, to sit without support and to hold their heads up. Reflexes become abnormal. Muscles grow rigid. Swallowing impaired.

I am terrified of this disease.