CATS MAY HAVE NINE LIVES—WE DON’T

     Before we had our cat, Skitter, I thought that people who doted on their pets were complete idiots.   ‘It’s not like they can talk to you or do anything productive,’ I used to say.  But when my oldest turned six and that tiny ball of fluff arrived, I did an about-face.  I became downright besotted.  Even though I was the one who fed her, changed the litter and made the vet appointments, she was worth it.  The kids loved her and even Dad came around the day she plunked in his lap and began to purr. 

     After awhile I was certain that she understood me.  ‘We’ had conversations understood only by us.  I did all the talking but I was sure she listened.  Her ears even cocked towards the sound of my voice.  And get this:  I brushed her with my own hairbrush!  For 9 years, she followed us coast to coast, grew bigger, navigated puberty w/ my oldest and shred a few pieces of furniture in the process.   

     One afternoon I found her licking the dinner bell.  Odd.  The next day she wouldn’t eat & hid herself deep in the closet.  Once the vet diagnosed feline leukemia, the only hope was a blood transfusion.  He said she’d be in pain and likely wouldn’t hold on, so I let her go.  It was hard and haunted me for months.  

     Now my neighbor has a dog.  He loves strutting behind that highly groomed pooch.  Treats him like he’s the Crown Prince of Something.  Picks up his poop in a plastic bag as if he were gathering rare gems.  Calls him, “Buddy.”  Talks to him with such affection and kindness that the day he first spoke to me I was taken aback.  He’s not a very nice guy.  In fact, in 3 years, we’ve only spoken twice.  During our  last conversation, talk drifted to aging parents.  “My mother got that dementia thing,” he told me.  “Put her in a home and that was that.  Don’t know what all the fuss is about.  You can put ’em anywhere.  Doesn’t matter.  They don’t know where they are anyway.”  Wonder what he’ll do when Buddy gets old and loses his swagger.   (http://www. helen-hudson.com

Advertisements

ALZHEIMER’S AND “KISSING TOMATOES”

     Spoke last week at the American Counseling Association’s national convention in Pittsburgh.  My topic was, “There’s No Place Like Home:  Caring for the Alzheimer’s Patient At Home.”  Having cared for my grandmother for 13 years in our home, this is an issue both personal and philosophical. 

     In 20 years, the US is predicted to have 11 million people diagnosed w/ the disease.  Add that number to the families & caretakers that will be involved & you have some idea what lies ahead of us.  If we don’t figure out how to care for our elders in their final years with both dignity & compassion, as other cultures have done for centuries, America will be sadder for it.  So will we.  We are all going to die.  If we are fortunate, we will all live to old age. 

     Our LAST chapter should be just as important as our FIRST one.  Indeed, by then one hopes we will have added something real and of value to the world at large.  Our babies, while precious and sacrosanct, have yet to offer us anything.  That will come with time.  Our elders have given us EVERYTHING and yet we abandon them in their last chapter.  It is their loss.  If they have Alzheimer’s, they will likely not even know it.  But we know it and ultimately it is OUR loss.  (http:// www.helen-hudson.com.  Read the first chapter of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” my memoir of those 13 years with Granny).