Sunday, March 7, 2010

Let's Complain

Someone said I should write this down, so others in my situation could share and laugh about surviving the nightmare known as dementia. My father was diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia four years ago. It's not Alzheimer's disease. We don't have a book or a clinic. What we have is an endless, mysterious condition that has no cause and no prognosis, no time line and no guild lines. We are on our own.

Long time ago, I had a friend with a terrible cancer. She taught me a game she learned in her cancer support group called Let's Complain. The rules are thus: players take turns listing their complaints. This must be a list of items, not stories, that irk them. No explanations. No defensive postures. Just gripes. The other players can only listen. It's not that easy. Listeners may not offer advice, suggestion or solution. Also, nothing mentioned in Let's Complain can ever be revisited later, as in "whatever happened to...?" The game is a mode of airing out, of carrying on, of, well, complaining. Let's Complain helped my friend voice her petty grievances. "Even dying people have minor daily irritations," she said. She died before we really got into the game.

Let's Complain does not work for me because my father is not dying. In fact he's healthier than he ever was. He is robust. That's a nursing home word. Robust. I hate that word. The staff psychiatrist at the nursing home reported that my father can easily live another ten years. TEN YEARS!

Since complaining won't work, I'll just share and describe. Share and describe how my father picked up a clump of black-dirty snow on our last walk and popped it into his mouth before I could intervene. How he pushed a plastic knife up into his nose - we think, to relieve an itch. Maybe this will help me release some angst. Maybe it will help someone else out there. If so, let me know. I can use all the good news I can get.

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