Yesterday morning I was listening to NPR (as I do most mornings when I'm getting ready to go to work) and a piece came on the BBC news regarding people suffering from Dementia. I stopped while putting on my makeup, fearful that I would have to reapply it due to the emotions that could occur while listening to something that touches so close to my heart. The words the reporter spoke echoed throughout my apartment as I stood motionless in the middle of the room, taking all of it in.
There is so much to be said about this disease. So much I am still observing, analyzing, and studying. There are so many days when I want to punch something or scream on the top of my lungs with utter frustration. Instead, I remain stagnant in my car, weeping at the lack of control my family and I have with all of this surrounding us. The crying is not so frequent, but of course it arises when least expected (probably due to traffic jams and people driving like maniacs down the 101). As they say, it's the straw that breaks the camel's back, and that's when I find myself staring at an empty shelf at the grocery store with tears streaming down my face.
When something so heavy enters your life, it's easy to focus on the sadness or the negativity of it all. It's quite easy to sink into those feelings and escape from everything else. I try not to visit that place as often as I do sometimes, but it's challenging when forced to encounter some life altering decisions on a somewhat daily basis. Then I find myself taking everything so seriously and not enjoying the moments I am physically a part of because I am lost in some of those thoughts.
During this holiday season though (compared to those past), I find myself feeling especially grateful. For the first time since 2008 I was able to spend Thanksgiving with my parents and extended family. The last time I was able to sit at my aunt and uncle's dining room table, my Grandma was sitting across from me and I had a horrible case of Laryngitis. Obama had just won the election and I was beyond annoyed that I couldn't voice my political opinions around the turkey being served.
Over the past few years, I have celebrated this holiday with a series of friends in Los Angeles, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New York. Those people I consider to be a part of my family just as much as those related to me through blood or marriage. It's those people and those moments shared with them that I treasure so much since I was unable to visit Northern California over all these years.
Last month, my cousin and I (plus her eight week old puppy) were able to drive up north for the weekend. We were able to sit in the comfort of our old homes and reminisce over the moments we shared between those walls. While driving along the I-5, we even blasted the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys- songs from our youth. We remembered those music videos we used to create for our family, and realized how awkward that must have been for everyone observing. Seriously, who wants to watch their daughter lip-sync "2 Become 1"? Our parents definitely put up with a lot during our Pop music phase.
It's challenging to describe how momentous this trip home actually was for me. Not only was it amazing to spend time with my cousin (who I originally planned a cross country road trip with when the movie "Crossroads" came out), but I was able to celebrate my dad's birthday with he and my mom. I can hear my grandma repeat the words in my ears as I type this: "family is everything," and I can't help but tear up a little bit. My family really does mean everything to me. From the hikes with my dad, to baking pumpkin pies with my mom, to sitting at their kitchen table with a cup of coffee and the newspaper; whenever I'm at home there is such utter happiness beaming from within me.
Those simple moments are easy to bypass and ignore, but it's those moments that make everything so completely worthwhile. It's easy to get sidetracked with the technicalities of a disease, and become almost obsessed with everything going on internally. That's not what life is about though. It's about the moments that you share with those you love and it's about celebrating the simple things in life.
Sometimes we just have to put our lives in perspective, and lately one way I have been doing that is by watching the video of my dad at the Alzheimer's walk back in October. There is nothing but love and pride that I have for him, and this speech is a true reflection of all that he is as a person. I feel the need to share it at this time for many reasons, but mostly because I want to spread some inspiration to others who might need it right now.
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