the tao of jaklumen

the path of the sage must become the path of the hero

A Hero’s Journey: Death Approaches

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Cimmorene was preparing Snow White as a feminine example of the Monomyth, but I came to love “Vasilisa the Wise” or “Vasilisa and Baba Yaga” as she told it to me, and I have asked her to prepare to tell that story instead.  But that will yet be for a future post.

Challenges, Temptations, & the Abyss

Challenges, Temptations, & the Abyss

Death intertwines much of my own journey.  Right now it is my mother’s parents, but the roots lie much deeper.  Right now my folks are facing a difficult task: my grandmother is slowly losing her mind to Alzheimer’s and senile dementia, and a move to assisted living cannot be put off much longer.  From what I understand, my grandfather is willing to do it, but she is most definitely not.

My parents went up last weekend to try to clear out more things: clothes she does not realize are old and worn, and many items hoarded over the years.  We usually use the word “pack rat” (and did so for those many years) because this is not the hoarding that you see on TV– hoarded items are carefully organized and hidden.  Examples include at least 30 years’ worth of trial-size hotel shampoos, acetaminophen; maybe 15-20 years worth of little mustard packets, things like that.  This is not the first time, by a long shot; my grandfather quietly smuggled preserved food, canning supplies, freezer containers, and so on when they visited for holidays.  This is also not the first time family members have gone to clear out stuff: sister #2 in town did so some months back.

While my grandmother sometimes will say that she wished she lived in our region again, or that they lived closer to us, I know it’s not true, and I have even flatly said so during telephone conversations.  Of course, the truth followed soon enough: “We’re too old to move”, not that she IS too old to move, but that she THINKS she is too old to move.  I told my father recently that they may simply have to blitzkrieg her and do it so fast she doesn’t realize at the time– and deal with the backwash later, but I figure earlier suspicions are much more likely: it will not happen until Grandpa dies.  The genetic deck is stacked in her favor for her to outlive him.

I mention roots because complications in all this stretch back several years.  My paternal grandfather died in 1990 of prostate cancer, and there was a Call to Adventure of sorts for me, in the form of lockout nights and peer counselor training away from school hours at a Christian camp that was once a state governor’s summer home.  In 1992, my father got gravely ill.  In 1993 I crashed out of a church-affiliated school and began psychiatric treatment (but I had been in counseling for at least eight years prior).  About the same year I came home from classes at the community college to find my father being taken away in an ambulance.   The following years I helped him take care of his mother, my grandmother.  1998 I got married at the Seattle temple in Bellevue to Cimmorene despite a number of hurdles.  My grandmother was the first family member I introduced her to.  In 2002 (a few months before Princess was born) she died after dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia as well.  Her death is still not something I find easy to talk about, for intensely personal reasons.  And just two years ago… my father almost died… again.

Shortly before last weekend he celebrated the 50th anniversary since his first near death experience.  I know where I was at that time, and that is all that I will say at this time.  He is weary, and with my own health problems, I can actually empathize.  I did say that I could probably deal with him being gone, but Mom has Parkinson’s now, and she needs him.  She at least needs him because I’m not certain she is fully prepared to deal with her own parents dying yet.

As he has worked on his personal history/life story, my relationship with him has improved a great deal, and not just through mutual suffering.  I have begun to see the relevance of family– and family traditions, for light and for darkness.  Light for the things that must continue; darkness for the things that have festered, grown cancerous, and have brought damnation– no, not that fire and brimstone damnation you might be thinking of, dear readers, but a holding back, a retarding, a stagnation.

It is part of what a post about my father’s favorite Bill Withers song and my own favorite Bill Withers song is all about.

Because I am beginning to relate my own life to the Monomyth, I am a bit torn about privacy/Visibility settings.  I think that for now I will follow the usual pattern: posts may still be locked down by password after a few weeks.  If you wish to follow this more personal side to the blog, please do, but I ask for authenticity, care, and trust.

Author: jaklumen

Wherever you see "jaklumen", that's me- the username is still unique as of the current year. Be aware that the facet you see, is only a small part of the me that is me.

2 thoughts on “A Hero’s Journey: Death Approaches

  1. I think a lot of us are going through similar issues, not the least because the oldest of the Boomer generation are beginning to show signs of dementia already. People are living longer thanks to better health care and diet, but medicine still hasn’t figured out a way to protect the brain from the effects of Alzheimer’s, stroke, Parkinson’s, and diabetes. Our bodies actually outlive our minds, which is scary if you think about it too much.

    I’m sorry your parents and you have to make these decisions, but at least your grandmother has loving family to make them for her. I’ve visited a number of care facilities over the last two years, and there are plenty of old people with no family in town to look after their needs. Their relatives come in once a year (maybe) to visit; it’s not that they don’t care, but they live thousands of miles away and have jobs and families and homes of their own. So they place Grandma in the nicest care center they or Medicare can afford and hope she’ll be okay until the next visit. In retrospect, my parents were very lucky they had one kid who was willing to uproot her life to look after them.

    About the “blitzkrieg” move: I had a friend whose mother refused to give up her house but whose dementia had made her a danger to herself and others. One day she told her mother that they were going out for Sunday dinner and told her to get dressed. (She helped her mother, of course: Mom had long lost the ability to put even her own underwear on.) They then drove to the memory care facility, where they were in fact serving Sunday dinner in the dining room. My friend sat down with her mother and ate as if they were in a restaurant; then a staff person came to their table and asked if her mother would like to join them for a concert in the community room. The mother got up and cheerfully forgot all about her daughter, who quietly slipped out and drove home. You might say it was deceptive, but it finally got the mother into a safe place. She’d been found wandering alongside a busy causeway earlier in the year, and her doctor said it would just get worse. Love means being protective, especially when your loved one is unknowingly self-destructive. 😦

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