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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is he really immortal?...

I’m going to see Riley today. I’m wondering what I will find and if he will know that I really am there. Each time I visit him, he appears to be just a little tiny bit better than he was the last time I saw him. There have been no leaps of improvement. But still…

The liver is a miraculous organ. It can regenerate new cells to replace the bad ones. I’ve seen this happen with Riley several times. I don’t know when the liver degenerates to the point of not being able to regenerate enough cells to return to proper functioning.  I’ve talked to the hospice nurse and she told me that Riley has caused too much damage for his liver to be able to regenerate enough to be fully functional. The same thing goes for his brain.
This hospice nurse was assigned to Riley because she has experience with alcoholic deaths. While talking to her, I knew she understood concern. She carefully explained to me that it may take Riley a considerable amount of time to reach his end. Or he could have another heart attack and have it all end quickly. It really doesn’t matter because his brain function is so limited that he will never be able to return home. Fortunately, he is well-insured and is able to stay in the nursing home for as long as he is alive. He may be able to improve enough to go to an assisted living facility, but that would be a big stretch. She assured me it was time for me to move forward.
I suppose I’m a little gun-shy when I’m told that Riley is dying. He’s been dying before and has always managed to come back. I find it difficult to truly believe that he is not going to make it through this. I want to trust what I’m being told. I want to make plans for my future without Riley. But, I don’t call him the Immortal Alcoholic without reason. So… I guess… I must wait.
My fear is not that he will survive, but rather he will survive to a point where he might get discharged and sent home. He will never be able to live on his own again. I accept that fact. There is no place for him to go except to my house. I’m not physically or emotionally able to take care of him any longer – at least not with his inability to tend to his biological functions or inability to mobilize.

The best case scenario for both me and Riley is that he recovers to the point of being able to be placed in an assisted living facility or long term care. I have no reason to believe that cannot happen based on my previous experiences with Riley and death. The only thing preventing that is if Riley is capable of refusing that placement. I will have to firmly stand by my decision to not have him come home and not be his caretaker.  
Riley might not agree with me. He has stated a million times that he would prefer to be dead than to be sober. Who knows for sure? He always made those statements when he was in the middle of drinking. So now that he is in the condition that he is, how do I really know what it is he would want?
He wants to come home. Every time I visit he tells me that. He wants to sit in his rocking chair and talk on the phone. He tells me to make sure I turn off the TV in the den because no one is watching it. He tells me he wants to go to the living room and doesn’t understand why I can’t just push the bed in there. He wants his computer. In the few words I can really understand, I am able to understand all that. In between sips of his imaginary drink, he is clear that he wants to come home.
I feel that I cannot just sit and wait for Riley’s outcome. I’m taking the nurse’s advice and moving forward. I have given a 60-day notice on my country house and will move in with my grandson’s family for the summer.  I’ve already started on getting my health back by getting plenty of rest and taking all my medications as prescribed. I spend more time walking around the property and enjoying the beautiful weather.

There is a new job ahead of me. I’ll be looking after my great-granddaughter during the day. She is too old for day care and too young to be alone. I’m looking forward to spending time with her. I have lots of plans for little adventures. She will keep me active and alert. It will be a symbiotic relationship.
In the long run, I guess Riley’s condition really doesn’t matter anyway. Whatever is going to happen will happen without my consent, interference or management. It isn’t up to me. The only thing I can do is plan for my own future and not Riley’s – if he has one.

11 comments:

Karen said...

You're doing the right thing, Linda. You've got to take care of yourself and plan for your future.

Syd said...

This is a good decision, Linda. Riley is where he will be taken care of without the toll on you. You still have a life to live that is your own.

NorthernTeacher said...

So good to hear that you can now make changes in your life and just think how you have the summer to look forward to! Best of luck to you, Linda.

BevE said...

Your moving in the right direction Linda : D

Gerry said...

I am glad you have gotten to this point, Linda. And are accepting what must be. It is a good thing there is a place for Riley to live out his last days, and a good thing you don't have to be his caretaker any more. For you to be involved in a major way would do damage. I am so glad you have a new life plan and I wish you well.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you're making plans for you. You deserve an enjoyable and restoring summer!

Gabriele Goldstone said...

I find the messed up brain cells the most challenging part. I love how you say - it's not your problem anymore. I sighed with relief when I read that - for you - and, somehow, for me too.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

It is good that you are able to now look forward to a beautiful summer and time with your great-granddaughter.

As to your question "Is he really immortal?" - sometimes it seems that way Linda and this brings with it a peculiar sort of pain in that the journey is never quite completed - but eventually Riley and you will gain your different peace.

Respect always.

Anna o]

Beth said...

I am happy to see you moving forward with your life Linda! You have done right by Riley and now it's time to focus on yourself and what's best for you. Enjoy your new "caretaking" role with your granddaughter, and have lots of great little adventures over the summer!

Colleen said...

This has to be really tough for you. An ending and a beginning.
It is wonderful that you have the opportunity to focus on your granddaughter and spend time with her. Think of the wonderful memories you will be giving her.

Michele R said...

Linda, how wonderful to be going from taking care of Riley to taking care of and being taken care of by your great-granddaughter. You deserve all the love she's going to lavish on you. Many happy adventures!