Our Mom died on January 15th, 1993; Dad on August 1st, 2001.
Elizabeth moved into our home on a permanent basis in April of 1995. Prior to that and all of our adult lives, she has spent a large portion of her time with me … summers, winter and spring breaks, and weekends. While I always thought that losing our Mother would cause our family to crumble, it was our Father’s death that influenced our lives the most. Dad was a most predictable member and contributor to our family. Without him, IMHO, we lacked direction and accountability as life became a free-for-all, so to speak. I never imagined I would miss the man who caused such grief and chaos in our home as much as I did initially and still do today.
February 3, 2002
I was married to Bill at that time, and it was a Sunday. I was President of the Philoptochos, and was off to Church early for a breakfast that was being served after the liturgy. Bill’s assignment was to bring Lizzie to Church. When they arrived, I was surprised to notice that she looked unusually disheveled. Bill reported that she had a most difficult morning focusing on getting ready for the day, and that she had been upset because she believed "they" were surrounding the house with the intent of hurting her. Later that afternoon, we sat down in the living room for a family meeting to talk about her thoughts and assure her all was safe and well in our home. She seemed OK after that. While Lizzie has always had a vivid imagination partly due (again IMHO) to our Mother’s influence, this was different. This was a delusion.
A few days later our beloved cat Dillon died. My sister chose to be present in the living room as we all said goodbye to him, and she watched intently as the vet gave him his last shots. Death is nothing new for Lizzie. We were raised in the typical Orthodox tradition of family funerals since we were little girls, and we have both had a firm belief about the afterlife based on our early upbringing in the Church. We have had many pets die over the years, and so this was typical fare for us at the end of our pet’s life as well. A couple of weeks after this day, however, my sister changed and the change was a forever change in her cognitive functioning.
I remember only that it was a Monday morning. Lizzie was in the habit of having someone go in and wake her up personally (in addition to the alarm clock) with a hug, kiss, and morning prayer. That person was usually me, and she wakes in this manner even today. Then I would leave her on her own to do her morning grooming and prepare for the day after which she would bounce up the stairs with “A beautiful blessed good morning to everyone this beautiful day in the Lord!” She would prepare and serve her own breakfast, and then be ready for Citilift to take her to WARC at the appointed time. Sometimes she would be left home alone to let herself out, and that worked perfectly fine. This particular Monday morning, I noticed Lizzie was late getting upstairs. When I went down to check on her, I found her unclothed in her walk-in closet mumbling to herself about not knowing what to do. And that is exactly how she was … she did not have a clue as to how to go about dressing that day.
That Monday was the start of a journey into the unknown for us as our lives were altered evermore. In counseling, we call it the family dance. We didn’t know the steps to this new dance and often tripped on each other trying to learn the motions. I will share these lessons with you in hope that for those who are reading and are in similar circumstances … you might gain insight into your own situation. It’s as simple as that. I have no desire whatsoever to appear a martyr in my efforts to provide the best possible life for Elizabeth, so we’ll skip the kudos. I am hoping someone out there will offer me encouragement and if you read something you have experienced, please share so I know I am not alone in all of this. Deal? OK. TBC later then.