For the first time ever, I am a proud owner of a real Christmas tree. The gifts are almost wrapped. The elves are up their usual antics….and if I am being honest…..even better, more elaborate antics, since the 12 year-old is now in on the “gig.” If someone looked in on our life via our Christmas greetings or even through the window of our home, it looks, sounds and smells like Christmas per usual.
But, this year…..well, everything is different. My Dad is sick. He thankfully hasn’t been given the worst kind of news, like “You have X amount of time to live.” But….he has a condition that many fear. We have lived with the Parkinson’s diagnosis for the past few years (and watched his motor skills decline, while somehow maintaining his determined and positive attitude) But now….his mind is being compromised as well. My Dad has Lewy- Body Dementia. Typing that sentence is one of the hardest I have ever put to paper. This makes me sad for so many who have been part of my Dad’s life and our story. This is our precious “P” as my son affectionately named him nearly 12 years ago. I looked up his account passwords today (in the event that he forgets) and wasn’t surprised that “Ilovemygrandchildren” was one of them (Shh….don’t tell). If only our love for him could fix him, he would already be healed.
I feel compelled to say that I am not writing this for sympathy. I know through our Faith, love and strength we will get through these tumultuous waters. I know that we will still celebrate the “good days” and stick together through the “hard days.” I’m writing this because I’m finally in a place where I can talk about it, and I know that there are countless other people who are dealing with similar challenges, or worse. I’m hoping that by sharing our story, it may provide comfort in the fact that you’re not alone.
One of the things that has struck me the most is just how fortunate we have been. How lucky we are to have each other, realizing that most families have lived through tough holidays, tough seasons, and tough years. I have found that although this experience has been heart wrenching, it has also allowed me to empathize with others more deeply. I have also gained new found appreciation in the simple gestures of sincerity.
I recently told a close friend that I feel like I am living a parallel life. My kids bring me tremendous joy, and being part of their days and events make me happy. Then, in an instant, a phone call snaps me back to the reality of helping manage doctor visits, temporary nursing facility tours, and taking a call from a nurse about my Dad’s night or care. Sometimes I even feel like I am living a lie…. simultaneously being happy and heart broken. Lucky enough for my hubby, he truly sees it all. He loves me despite my split personality, and I have depended on him more than ever before. He’s sad too, and sometimes that is also easy to overlook.
So during this holiday season, I wanted to tell others who are caught between two lives, sad or grieving that I am right along with you. I understand that you might be telling someone “I am good,” because it’s easier than saying you are heartbroken. I understand that as a parent….you must smile through the tears and continue to make that magic happen. I understand that a simple question from someone in Target can result in full on crying (just ask Lilly’s dance teacher who made the mistake of saying Hello to me?!) For all who are not having the “merriest” season of all, I got you… and we will get through this together. Life is beautiful and painful and beautiful again. We will get there one day at a time.
WRITTEN BY STACEY
Stacey Marks moved back to Buffalo with her family in 2015 after a ten year hiatus in PA. She has a day job as a marketing professional in Corporate America. The rest of her time is spent resisting the urge to micromanage the daily lives of her husband and two kids.