Reality Bites

Regular readers of our prattle may have noticed a drop off in the amount of offerings being posted of late, or possibly detected a slight air of distraction.

The truth is that the Homestead has been working to adjust to an external, fundamental, familial change; a shift in roles that has left us floundering for direction and struggling to do “right”.


It’s been nearly a year since our suspicions of Nana’s early Alzheimers disease were confirmed by a CT scan. A year… twelve months… one time round the sun…during which The Bean Counter, his siblings, all their hangers-on – our extended family – have undertaken this crazy dance of trying to help out without disempowering this private, capable, faithful, honest, fun-loving lady. We’ve twitched and wrung our hands – should we intervene or are we over reacting – countless times, during numerous telephone calls, and freight-train length, reply-all emails. We’ve gently prompted groped-for words and phrases, undertaken the mental gymnastics of a retold anecdote, and found ourselves parenting the same lady who bustled into our flu-ridden home a quarter of a century ago, taking charge of the squalling baby, the mountain of washing, the housework, shopping, and all the trappings of our adulthood so we could just sleep, safe in the knowledge that everything would be okay now.  We’ve loathed ourselves when we’ve ignored her looks of bewilderment at the uproar of a joke cracked, or sighed when we’ve had to stop and re-explain things, or hurried her, bustled her, assumed rather than asked, shoved rather than guided and, worst of all, excluded her…because it was just easier.


Nana’s dementia is an ever-shifting beastie; one moment foggy and confused, leaving her sitting vacant and silent on the sidelines, the next filling her to the brim with life so she recalls telephone numbers, addresses and, in one case, furniture dimensions with such clarity, precision and pertinence that you catch yourself wondering if those in the know have got it all wrong.  But they haven’t…

Then, a fortnight ago, another CT scan, another doctor, and another dementia diagnosis: Grandad. Utilizing the oven as a clothes drier, inviting Real Estate agents and cold callers in for tea and cake, the countless, trivial, repeated, never ending, relentless deluge of  telephone calls ensured it wasn’t a huge surprise but gregarious, obstinate, opinionated, Geordie Grandad isn’t at all convinced there’s a scrap of truth in the diagnosis at all! Suddenly, we find ourselves growling at him in the same tone he used on the eight year old Bean Counter, when he spied him riding his bike against the traffic on a banned major arterial road. He even responded with the same catch-cry: “but I know what I’m doing!”

2014-09-19 16.34.11

So, here on the Homestead we’re feeling a bit lost and useless and inept. With the diagnoses comes access to a plethora of wonderful, caring, knowledgeable organisations and folk who are only too pleased to help us out and buoy us up. They’ve seen it all before and have all kinds of wonderful ideas.

But, this is different. You see, this couple are the people that saw The Bean Counter through the mumps, chicken pox, and countless bouts of tonsillitis. They doled out punishments when he overstepped the mark and cheered on the sideline of every football game, whatever the weather.  They handled the pierced ear, Sid Vicious sneer, obnoxious teenage viewpoints, and 1970’s Kiwi-punk; they adjusted to adult children, became caring, trustworthy grandparents, and quietly observed their children parented…mostly. They’re not everyone else.

They’re The Bean Counter’s Mum and Dad.


28 thoughts on “Reality Bites

  1. This has brought a tear to my eye. Physical frailty is one thing with parents, but mental frailty is such a challenge. I’m glad you are getting external support, but really the difficulty is knowing how best to deal with increasingly bewildered and dependent people with compassion and dignity at the same time as mourning the loss of the person you knew. I wish you strength over the coming months – I hope you can find laughter and peace and joyous times with the Bean Counter’s mum and dad. I lost my dad a year ago and it is the happy times that shine in my memory.

  2. So sorry to hear of your double dose of pain. We are watching on the side lines as some other friends deal with this and have observed it is not easy being a grown up child with parents who are changing. We know that the Bean Counter’s family will handle this with strength and at times tears. But take time to reflect on the good times with them, look at the photos of all those times you shared and treat yourselves fairly because you ARE doing your best. Give our love to all at the Homestead and the extended family we are thinking of you. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  3. I am so sorry to hear that. My great grandmother had Alzheimer’s and it was so difficult to watch her lose all memory, even of her son. My prayers are with you all.

  4. Dear Sharon and all the family at the home stead…I am so sorry. This is devastating news! Both the parents is beyond any belief or understanding.
    Two years ago my mother passed away. Alzheimer’s took eight years to slowly change her from a Lady in very sense of the word to a little fragile bird who could hardly talk anymore. It was cruel and heart breaking. We were all happy to take care of her, helping my father as best as we could, helping them move from the Big House to assisted living. Sometimes we all lost patience too, or had to laugh at all the shenanigans this disease brought. Best be human and honest about it!!
    Not so long ago, my father passed away. Peacefully,in his sleep. I was sad but grateful!
    I hope, you will have all the help you need and I know you all have each other and family bonds and love is what you and they need more than anything else!!! My loving thoughts for you all, Johanna

  5. This totally sucks, as our kids would say. I’m glad you have each other and some extended family to support each other, and it’s great that there’s plenty of community resources to help you out – you’re going to need them. I remember the day when I realized my Mum would never be herself again, and in a split second I was not the child anymore, I was the caregiver – it was almost like a time shift in a Star Trek episode or something, which sounds a little silly, but it really felt like that. LIfe changing, even though everything around me looked the same. Geordie, huh? Tough and stubborn as they come, fortunately Bean Counter is by default, part Geordie himself and will have what it takes to cope with the difficult patches. Sending lots of hugs to each of you (only if FG has taken off her special overall smelling of billy).

    • Oh yes, The Bean Counter has more than a drop of Geordie in his veins 🙂 (ever seen Auf Wierderesen, Pet?)
      The Bean Counter and his siblings are pretty in sync, it’s just a matter of working out who plays what role…
      I’d hold off the hugs for another three weeks – that’s when Bob heads home and I’m hoping the Homestead, and everything and one in it by default, loses the faint whiff of billy.

  6. Gosh, what a blow, not only for your poor parents but for you also. It is such a terrible, difficult disease but you have each other. I know it’s easy to say and I don’t wish to sound flippant but keep yourselves strong, for all’s sakes. Sending hugs and strength in this difficult time.X

  7. missed reading your blog and now I know why! Lost a father in law to the dreaded Alzheimer’s two years ago.Things did not fair to well for my loved mother in law. He wrecked a car , would not and could not take his medications, tossed my mother in law out of the house and ended up getting picked up by the police before finally getting the help medication and support he needed…Long long road for your family and I wish you the very best. always remember that writing is a great out let for those pains and frustrations. It helped me get through the many trips to pick up Grandma when Grandpa was angry at her for something in his past or when he did not want some one in his house he did not know. Keep writing is helps to share the load!

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