My uncle was exceptionally unkind to the kindest woman in the world, my mom, his sister. I was exceptionally unforgiving.
He had Lewy body dementia. That’s the same thing that allegedly caused Robin Williams, one of the funniest people in the entertainment industry, to commit suicide.
I still haven’t talked to him.
In recent years as I’ve learned more about the way Alzheimer’s and dementia affects people I have begun to really understand that he could not help himself.
He truly could not help himself.
Where as I believe I was standing up for my mom, I also believe that it should not have been a question of forgiveness to begin with, but understanding.
I knew his disorder would affect his brain. I knew the brain is where we get our personality and how we process our definition of acceptable behavior.
It was my behavior that was unacceptable and I am ashamed of myself.
I cut someone I care about out of my life for behavior they could not help. What’s worse is I don’t even have a clue how to rectify it. This person is now rather lost to our family for a multitude of reasons.
This is part of why I became a hospice volunteer.
I know I cannot make up for the lost time with my uncle. I also know that although I’d like to be able to physically see to the needs of my loved ones, that is just not always realistic.
I want to give them everything I think they lack whether it be an appropriate vehicle to get around in or a quick flight in so I can hug one who just lost a pet.
I want to wrap up what’s left of Mom and whisk her away where we can laugh at her distorted perception of a world through her stroke-addled brain.
I want my uncle to have back his life before the disease changed him into a monster.
I cannot do for my family everything that I feel like I should be doing nor can I afford to do everything for them I would like to do.
Let’s face it, I really don’t even have a whole lot of time to give. What I do have, thanks to the generosity of the Hubbabubba who takes care of most of the housework and is willing to share time I should be spending with him, is the ability to prioritize my time enough to spend a few hours with someone who may have family members like me.
Someone out there has family members who didn’t understand in the moment and now they are lost to them. They have people who care but cannot get to them. They have people who love them but cannot handle seeing the person they once knew in the shell they see now.
That’s why it can be so very important to have the care of a stranger. When I look at my charges I do not remember them for what they were, but I see them for the person who they are. In any given moment that is likely to be another very lonely human being who simply wants the comfort of knowing that someone else cares.
Sometimes that may be a teenager reliving his or her heyday. Sometimes it is a mother who sees her child who has been absent, or a friend who sees another who has been long gone.
These are precious moments. These are the moments when it’s so important to be present. To see another person the way they see themselves and to accept them. To love them just as they are right then.
To learn to love yourself in spite of your own imperfections.
You don’t have to be a perfect human being to be a savior. You don’t have to be the perfect daughter or son or spouse. You don’t even have to be perfect.
Whether you are choosing to deal with Alzheimer’s every day or volunteering to help those who do, you are being a savior just by being present.
Thank you to those who serve my loved ones when I cannot be there, especially on days when I know they are not exactly there either.
Beanie Taylor is a staff reporter for The Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.