A Letter to Charlie

Dear Charlie,

It’s hard, isn’t it?

I saw you wipe away the tears today and it broke my heart. I wanted to get up from my chair and give you a hug…but I barely know you. Instead, I remained silent and still.

Your wife, Margie, has aphasia and it must be so difficult when you don’t understand her. She has attempted to “talk” to me several times, usually with a smile, and I simply nod and smile back. I have no idea what’s she’s trying to say, but as with my own mother, I wing it. Sometimes I tell your wife that she’s pretty or I like what she’s wearing to get her to smile. I imagine that Margie was very effervescent and outgoing before the aphasia. I imagine her a free spirit who was (and still is) very much in love with you.

I see the way she looks at you, even today when she was unhappy. Margie can feel the deep love that you have for her. I’m sure of it.

I don’t know her circumstances and haven’t felt the need to ask. I don’t know how you two met, if you have children or grandchildren, how Margie came to live in the same home as mom, or why she carries a baby with her. I can speculate, but I don’t feel it’s any of my business. You know her story and that’s good enough.

But, it’s still hard.

It’s hard when their anxiety, fear or unhappiness rears its ugly head in a way we can’t control or console. You tried to hug your wife, give her a kiss, offer your love…and the tears only became worse. I had never seen Margie cry like this before, which made me swallow my own tears. She is such a sweet little lady. I’ve been through this with mom several times – the anxious phone calls when she thought money was missing from her purse; when she was so paranoid that she thought she had been kidnapped; when she asked me to take her “home” in a voice of a lost child. I know exactly how you felt today at dinner. It sucks, right?

You’re not alone, Charlie.

There are hundreds of thousands of husbands, wives, sons, daughters, family members, and friends that experience the same with their loved one’s emotions and their own when it comes to dementia, Alzheimer’s and aphasia. They understand the rawness and unforgiving attitude of these afflictions. They have shed tears, same as you and I, in the pain we feel from helplessness. This special group of people have silent, loving thoughts and hugs for you so that you can travel the difficult road ahead.

There will be good days.

Margie will have good days. She’ll smile and have an engaging “conversation” with you. She’ll hold your hand and give you a knowing glance of love. She’ll be content to sit by you and accept your comforting kisses. Those are the days to focus on, Charlie. Those are the days that will bring you joy in the middle of something you can’t fix. Pay attention to them, soak them up, bank them for the teary days.

The good days make hard a little more bearable.

I promise.

With silent love and hugs,

Mary

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30 responses to A Letter to Charlie

  1. Heartfelt letter to a person who needs help and understanding as he maneuvers this medical highway. The diseases tagged are what each and every one of us dread as we age. It use to be that the word starting with ‘c’ scared us almost to death. But, now there are plans to help arrest that diagnosis. With these there is just the locked waiting room. I applaud your caregiving, and I know your Mom and the rest of your family do too. When that time arrives, you will be able to move forward with zero regrets. 🙂

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I felt so much compassion for Charlie today. While mom was in a good mood and talkative, his wife was on the side of very unhappy. Mom is not a crier, but she’s had moments when I’ve heard fear and tears in her voice. It is so heartbreaking. I really do hope that Charlie knows he’s not alone.

  2. Joanne Sisco says:

    Oh great. Now you made me cry.

    This was written with so much empathy and you summed it up beautifully – that the good days will bring joy in the middle of something that can’t fixed. “Pay attention to them, soak them up, bank them for the teary days”. I think those are good words for everyone to remember, regardless of what they are dealing with.

    You’re a special person, MJ.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Sorry I made you cry, Joanne. This was one of those times that I had to write this down. I don’t know that I’ll ever have a more in-depth conversation with Charlie or give him a hug, but I had to speak what I felt today. I promise to be more cheerful in the next post, okay? And thank you for the compliment. ❤

  3. Dan Antion says:

    I am so glad you captured these feelings. It’s so hard to understand how these conditions affect the people involved. This is beautiful, and do very sad.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      That’s an understatement, Dan. If mom wouldn’t have developed dementia, I doubt I would have an understanding of the emotions and their effects. I think my compassion would be far less.

      • Dan Antion says:

        I have a limited understanding from sitting with my grandmother (50 years ago), who had lost her short-term memory and years worth of recent memories. I’ve written about her, but it’s very hard to express how I felt, or understand how her children felt.

  4. joey says:

    Love and compassion always help, sometimes heal, but with this, cannot cure. You’re right to encourage Charlie to hold on to the precious, happy moments. That’s all any of us can do.

    I must say again, I’m glad your mother has you. It makes me weepy. I’m glad Margie has Charlie. But I feel badly for all parties.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I’m glad I still have my mom to have a few more precious moments before she finally “goes home.” Mom’s anxiety seems to have lessened since this past May, for which I’m grateful. I hope Margie’s sorrowful days and moments lessen as well, or at least come well after her happy moments with Charlie.

  5. Susan Scott says:

    Beautiful post Mary thank you. It’s hard to witness another’s pain or anguish, but we can – and continue to develop compassion or empathy or whatever it is –

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You’re welcome, Susan. I don’t believe anyone who’s had to deal with aphasia, dementia or Alzheimer’s in a family member or friend can become anything but compassionate.

  6. dweezer19 says:

    This is so beautiful Mary. I understand completely. When my mother-in-law was in a nursing home, suffering from mild dementia; I saw and interacted with many around her who were much worse off. Then I lived with the slow decline of her own mental and cognitive stability. It is heartbreaking when you just want to fix wverything for the ones you love. For years we asked her to come live with us but she was fiercely independent, even choosing to live in a retirement home for many years. By the time she requested to come and live with us it was n longer an option. We both worked and there was no one to be home with her. Mom communicated fine, but there was a glitch in her space-time continuum. It totally broke my heart because she was a second mother to me. Hugs to you, your Mom, Charlie and his wife and all others who go through this painful part of life. At least Mom was most.y funny about things. She rarely got upset.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thanks for sharing about your mother-in-law, Cheryl. It was a blessing for your second mom that she didn’t suffer from the anxiety, sadness or anger that many do. Of course, it’s what upsets us the most because of the inability to fix it or because it takes so long to calm them. I’ve been happy that mom seems less anxious than she did a year or two ago. When I see her, she still asks to “go home,” but at least it’s not with tears.

      • dweezer19 says:

        I’m glad she has found a place of acceptance Mary. It is very heartwrenching knowing when we ate powerless to change certain things.

  7. Very emotional and powerful at the same time. Made me feel sad for what Charlie and his wife are going through. Hope he reads this post you wrote.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Phil, perhaps some day a cure will be found for aphasia so there will be no more Charlie’s or Margie’s and it’s sadness.

  8. Beautiful. Moving. Inspiring. I too wish Charlie could read it.

    And I, for one, don’t need you to be cheerful. I read your blog because you seem so real. It is why I still have a Christmas gift for you (from last year).

    Thanks for sharing what you have, and who you are with all of us.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You are sweet…comments like yours inspire me to keep writing. Thank you so much.

      Have a wonderful Christmas!

  9. Claudia says:

    Very sad. Very true. And so full of love and passion. My mother and father died quickly, no dementia or other memory disease…I feel I had it lucky. But I often see others in worse states and it breaks my heart, for there’s nothing you can do for them except, as you say, maybe one day give them a hug. Beautiful writing.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thanks Claudia. Although there is nothing I can do to help my mom’s dementia, it helps that I can still hold her hand and tell her I love her. She still understands those two words and responds in kind. It would be more difficult if she couldn’t speak to me. Little blessings like that make this easier.

  10. shelleykrupagmailcom says:

    Beautiful message about the importance of being in the moment of their reality. Dementia isn’t easy, but there are moments of joy and connection to embrace. Each affected brain, caregiver, and family affected in their own unique way. Thanks for sharing!

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You are correct, Shelley, that there are moments of joy and laughter to embrace. I try to focus on those moments every time they occur.

      • Shelley says:

        I know exactly how you feel – enjoy an extra hug or two with your mom! I know my mom enjoyed those moments a lot. xx

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