Driving Mr. Dude.

6 Mar

Has it really been more than a month since I’ve posted?! Yow! It doesn’t feel like it on this side.

It’s been a busy time. Traveling in January, getting sick. I’m back at work in February.

And now, it’s March! Egads.

My guy is getting muddier.

He knows it on some level so the anger and Mr. Punctilious is back.

I get it. If I was aware I was getting more confused – or I was just confused – anger is a logical place to go. Not that there’s much logic to his thinking when he is in a more confused – or muddy – state.

His motor skills are also flagging. Going for a walk is now going for a leisurely stroll. A slow leisurely stroll. Our co-pilots notice and ask me about it. They see that he forgets more words, he needs a lot of help on the puzzles and he’s winning fewer games.

The song from Driving Miss Daisy has been STUCK in my head for all this time.

The play and film revolve around an aging woman, Miss Daisy, whose son hires a driver for her, Hoke Colburn. She’s Jewish, he’s African American, and they’re in Atlanta, Georgia. The relationship between them takes place over 25 years, from the late 1940s into the 1970s. It’s not the best movie in the world but it is a good one on quite a few levels. While a strong story line is about race and prejudice, it is also a rich story about two people whose relationship grows, changes, and deepens over time. It’s the latter focus that applies to our situation.

I’m not sure who’s who or what’s what. Am I Hoke and my guy is Miss Daisy? Or vice versa? Are we moving through the plot forwards or backwards? I think both directions of both are true.

Speaking literally, I’m definitely Hoke when we get in the car. I drive and he, as Miss Daisy, does the directing. Turn there, go this way, slow down, be careful of that car over there. His driving reactions are intense or non-existent. For every ten comments, maybe one is useful. He gets frustrated when I don’t take the route he wants or do what he says.

On another level, he “drives” me around. Most of my days are built around what he’s doing and where he goes. I “follow” him with arrangements to ensure he can do what he wants to do. For the most part. His latest goal is to sky dive. We’ll see if, when, and how that will work. I get frustrated when there’s no time left for me to do what I want to do. I’ve been better at navigating that issue, thus I get into that back seat for less time than I used to.

As the story progresses, Hoke and Miss Daisy have conflicts, usually over who is in control. Hoke has been hired to take her where she needs to go and she first distrusts him and resists accepting that she has that need. In this scenario, I am Hoke, there to help albeit not hired in, and my guy is Miss Daisy, as he resists the idea that he needs any help at all to do anything. Now, he is more accepting, as is Miss Daisy as the story continues. He will accept help – if it is offered carefully. Thus, our helpers are called co-pilots or personal assistants, NOT caregivers. When I need to help him with the more personal stuff, I tread carefully about how to frame it. “Everybody has this issue at some point” is my usual refrain.

Again, though, the control switches around, as when his needs trump any others. I had to run home yesterday when our afternoon co-pilot got food poisoning and the agency could not find another in time. Luckily, I could do that on that day, but his needs were in charge. According to him, however, he was fine and didn’t need anyone to be with him. Ha!

After texting about what to do, our morning co-pilot set him up with a movie so he would be occupied until I got there (she had to leave and couldn’t stay late). I get home about four minutes after she leaves – he’s got the tv off and is in another room assembling things for a ‘project’. Good thing I got home. He was able to do his project with me there. Had he done it alone, it would not have worked out well. Scissors were involved although he wanted a knife to do the cutting.

As the story progresses, (SPOILER ALERT) it turns out that Daisy gets dementia and Hoke helps care for her, ultimately visiting her in the facility. Well, most likely, that is where our story is headed.

On the other hand, their story runs from conflict into harmony and closeness. Ours is running on a backwards trend from that. We had less conflict when he had a healthy brain. We both are wired the same, in terms of dealing with conflict or differences. We think at length about whatever the issue or situation is and then talk it out when we’re ready. I’m still operating that way. But he doesn’t anymore.

If he feels that things are not going the way he wants them to, he just gets angry. It’s hard to discuss anything since his logical brain is not functioning. So we’re moving from harmony and closeness into conflictual situations.

Yes, his medication helps calm him down a bit. We’ve found the right dosage that doesn’t over do it. He’s not overly sedated. That’s good news. Before we found this balance, his anger was getting a bit scary. However, I realize this balance will not last forever. As the dementia continues to do what it does to his brain, the medication will always need to be adjusted. And will become ineffective – for helping him function – at some point.

Thus, perhaps, dementia is in the driver’s seat, driving us both around through the roads of uncertainty and loss.

Wow, that’s depressing.

My dude and I will keep jumping into the driver’s seat, with dementia an unwelcome yet constant passenger. We will navigate as best we can through this maze, accepting it for what it is, and focusing on the humor and whatever good stuff we can find. The more in the car with us, the less dementia can take a front seat.

Go team!

Note: It’s Jack Black’s version of the song, from the movie, Holiday, that’s in my head – Check it out: from 0.18 to 0.30 in this video.


2 Responses to “Driving Mr. Dude.”

  1. Neighbor Nancy March 7, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

    I always find inspiration in your posts, Ann. I’ve taken a break from blogging as my husband and I are “co-pilots” on another dementia “case”. This time it’s really personal, his mom. I loved that relationship between Hoke and Miss Daisy, especially the pie scene at the end. This is the stage I’m in with my mother-in-law – not many words, but a deeper connection with each day we care for her. I know I will now have the theme to Driving Miss Daisy in my head for days.

  2. annahnemouse March 8, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

    Nancy, thanks for the comment and support. I’m so sorry to hear about your mom-in-law – she’s fortunate to have such experienced and dedicated co-pilots.
    Isn’t it amazing how media can give us some respite. Seeing our own stories – or parallels to them – can sometimes be comforting. I’ll be thinking of you – take care.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: