Sunday, August 23, 2009


Oh, yeah -- we're back to discussing depression again.

This ongoing mood I'm enduring is weird. I've written before about my beasts of depression -- the black dog, the red beast, the gray dog -- & I think that what's interesting is that my depressions have specific colors attached to them. A red depression is anger turned inward. A black depression is very very bad. A gray bout is milder but has a hopeless quality.

One reason I've been relatively silent lately is because I really don't want to talk, don't want to feel. I had dinner with very close friends last night who have gone through the business of how to deal with failing parents. I described how I want to sleep all the time, how my stomach is always electric with a stress I can't attach a name to, how lonely I feel & how incapable I am of soothing that loneliness.

"Yep," A. said. "That's the Elderly Parent Depression. We should find a color for it. Maybe blue. Or lavender."

I've been think that perhaps this feeling is the static on a television, an absence rather than an excess of feeling. I forgot that white is the combination of all colors when I typed it into Google images, thinking instead how blank white is. One of the first suggestions it gave me was "white tiger". OK, I thought. I have my beast. Padding almost silently as it stalks me. Not bad. This is a quiet mood.

But it's not quite right, the white tiger. I don't feel hunted in this mood-space. I'm not torturing myself with accusations, or at least not the kind that make me feel at once filthy and helpless. I think we've been very high-handed with my father, announcing plans to move him and Mom into assisted living in Montana on September 14th, transferring all their medical records, making lists of what will be moved north, even talking with my dad's financial adviser. But I also know that my brother and I can't keep flying to Arizona when there's a crisis and that my father is terribly lonely with Mom in a nursing home and blindness making him dependent on car services and Meals-on-Wheels. We're doing the best thing for them but I feel that in doing what we're doing, we've stripped my father of a lot of his vitality. Meals-on-Wheels for Mr. Cook? Every week he sounds a little more reduced, a little less in possession of his command over life. Will it come back when he's settled and Mom is with him? Will Mom shake out of her lack of interest that has come with the consequences of what I think now was a stroke?

I tell myself it will all be worth it when he walks outside on September 15th and smells the pure, sweet, cool air of the Bitterroot Valley. Will it? Can we re-create his mental stronghold for him? Will his curiosity and desires return?

Perhaps what I'm feeling is what I'm hearing. Without one of us there to read him his music, lecture and Library for the Blind catalogues, there's little excitement or eagerness in him. He seems not to have lost his appetite so much as his taste and his cravings -- and a reason to cook. When Mom was home for a couple of terrible weeks, she barked commands. "Water!" "Bathroom!" Now my brother and I are informing him of his next moves. And with Mom more comfortably established in the nursing home, his wife has turned into someone more vacant than he's ever known her to be, losing her thoughts and her own tastes and cravings (except for chocolate). His world is small and out of his hands.

And I am haunted by it.

There is color in this grief and terror and loneliness I am experiencing, but not much and not clear enough to define the outside world by. I miss my mom -- not only because I can't get hold of her in the nursing home but because my mom isn't really there any more. Now I'm starting to miss my father, too. What I seem to have -- a conversation with them, a visit -- is leached of its vibrancy and possibility.

Maybe this depression, as I suffer through articulating it, is the way my father, blinded by macular degeneration, sees the world. Incomplete and without a center.


Anonymous said...

I really have nothing constructive to say.....but as a food addict, and caretaker of an elderly parent; I wish I could hug you.


Unknown said...

The twilight years of elderly, ailing/failing parents are a series of deep losses for adult children. You are grieving these losses already and also feeling great sadness for your dad's predicament. It's terrible to watch them lose their freedom, their faculties... Being depressed is pretty normal under the circumstances. My heart goes out to you and to your parents.

Anonymous said...

So sorry.


Anonymous said...

Just reaching out my hand - Your on line friends care very much for you...

Anonymous said...

Patt J:
Oh, so sorry to read all this. There is nothing more I can say. Please keep writing.

AnnOfOrange said...

My mother died eight years ago after a confusing and confounding period of four months beginning with her 90th birthday. I think of her everyday and treasure all my memories of the many years of her life and the transitions that we went through together, whether we were in the same room or, as often was the case, many miles apart. I think, but do not know for sure, that the passage from adult child (is that an oxymoron?) to adult making decisions for elderly parents is among the most painful of life’s transitions. I do know that it is the most painful experience in my life so far. The role reversal that is involved in taking responsibility for parents is devastating – perhaps to both parent and child, but it is often necessary. Suddenly we are losing the relationship that we have had with our parents most of our adult lives – still being a child in a sense. It seems to me that it is right to be overwhelmingly sad and a little guilty about it – it is so profound. We feel guilty about taking charge, angry that we have to do so, very sad that we have lost that fundamental child–parent relationship, and we grieve knowing that our life and relationship with our parent(s) will never be the same. I don’t often offer unsolicited advice, but will say that your pain seems appropriate and loving. Embrace it and yourself and be grateful for that very human emotion.

Anonymous said...

Fran witces,
I have been following your depression and your efforts to manage again parents long distance. I have been going through exactly the same scenario myself for the past four years. I know this won't make you feel any better, but since I don't know anyone else who is going through this process (after spending the previous five years going through it with my in-laws) I
find comfort in the fact someone else is thinking and feeling the same things. I especially identify with someone who finds brushing teeth a sometimes insurmountable obstacle to the day. (Along with showering, doing laundry and finding acceptable food to feed myself.) There is great comfort for me in knowing that someone else feels this too. (And yes, even anti-depressives can do only so much...(
Your life double,
Nancy Drew

RachelB said...

You are a very talented writer. Your blog adds a lot of value to the blogosphere. Keep up the great work!

les said...

Dear Frances, Sometimes when you write about depression, it's like you're reading my mind. When my depression is bad, I just feel flat and grey. Everything is a struggle. Other times I'm full of rage and everything and everyone irritates the hell out of me. Thank you for sharing. Les