Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

Kim Writes: This is Reginald Anthony Luzader, or "Reggie" as most people call him. I call him, Dad. He called me,"Kimmer Dukous."
My Dad has Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's sucks.

Dad was diagnosed about seven years ago. He had been having a lot of difficulty with simple things, and my brothers and sisters and I insisted that he go see a Doctor. Dad didn't want to. I think he knew what they were going to tell him.

Here's Dad just a few precious years ago with his Great Granddaughter, Macy.


My Dad was kind of a hardass. He didn't see much value in reading or studying or anything like that. The way you won my Dad's praise was to work; hard. We lived on a farm. We grew row crops like soybeans and corn on the Luzader family farm, which had been in his family for a long time. It was a good fit; the thin soil on "the ridge" in Wyandot County and this stubborn family who didn't know any better than to try. More rock that dirt, the farm required all the family's stubborn determination to coax crops out of it's lackluster soil. As kids, my brothers and sisters and I spent a lot of time picking up rocks and pulling weeds. To this day, we'll still yell at each other to, "Get out there and pick up rocks!"

Dad and I didn't get along so well when I was a kid. I was a mouthy, rebellious, rotten little thing, and the last thing I wanted to do -- was what I was told. (If I had a nickel for every time I said "You're not the boss of me," I wouldn't have to write grants for BSBO).

I was such a brat. Something my Mom still teases me about is the time that I said some VERY bad cuss words in front of my VERY religious Southern Baptist Grandma at a family get together. Everyone heard it, including my Dad, who promptly hauled me over to the sink to wash my mouth out with soap. The reason for my outburst was my very tiny, very cute, very blond, very pink cousin, Wendy, who was quite a brat in her own right. As my Grandma was passing out cups of juice, she threw herself a good old "Wendy fit" and insisted that she MUST have the red cup NOT the green one, to which I (all of about 7 years old) declared, "Jesus, it's just a God@#~* cup!" When my Dad got me over the sink (in the kitchen--in front of everyone, btw) and picked up the bar of soap, I started bellering really loud in my best shrieking 'Wendy impersonation'. My Dad asked why I was crying before he'd even gotten the soap in my mouth, and I said, "You're gonna use the GREEN soap and I want the PINK soap!" Aghhh, good times, good times.

Dad whipped us if we messed up, cursed us if we disappointed him, and, somewhere underneath all that rough farmer exterior, he loved us too. My Dad gave me some of the greatest gifts I will ever receive in life. He made me a hard worker. He made me self sufficient. He also gave me these people.


Me and my brothers and sisters.
left-right: Me (god, check out those glasses!) Laura, Tony, Tina, and Aaron "AJ". Tony is gonna kill me if he ever finds out that I posted this picture!
He looks so totally different now, as you'll see.


We are not what you might call, "normal."
I don't have a recent photo of me with all my brothers and sisters.
This one was taken about six years ago.
god,..has it really been six years?!

Here's a more recent picture of me with Tony and AJ. Check out the change in Tony, on the left. He lost 40 pounds and started hitting the gym about three years ago; an amazing transformation. Tony lives in California, and this is a picture taken when he came for Thanksgiving a couple years ago. I wish he could be here this year...

It's a wonder that the five of us survived each other growing up. We fought like crazy, and with a Dad who had a penchant for things that went real fast, we always had dirt bikes, snowmobiles, and go carts to try and kill ourselves on. Of course, we always had to eat the cheapest crap (do any of you remember those big bags of 'Puffed Wheat' cereal? gaahh...!), and we always wore our cousins hand-me-down clothes. But, man-oh-man, did we have some fast stuff to ride!!
Even when we were just tiny little.


My Dad can't read this blog. He pretty much can't do anything for himself anymore. He doesn't really recognize anyone, and he hardly ever speaks at all. As I mentioned earlier, Alzheimer's really sucks. Dad's at home where hospice and the Alzheimer's Association of Northwest Ohio helps with his care. I can't bring myself to go see him anymore. A lot of people think that's terrible. They tell me that even if he doesn't show it on the outside, he knows you're there. But, ya know what, that's why I can't go. If he does know we're there, I think he'd hate it. I don't think he'd want anyone to see him in the shape he's in. In fact, if he could, he'd probably just tell us all to go out and pick up rocks...

I don't mean for this to be a bummer. It's actually just a vivid reminder to love your family today, and EVERY day. Don't wait for a holiday to be thankful and express your love and appreciation for the people in your lives. And, if you have a few extra bucks this holiday season, please consider a contribution to the Alzheimer's Association. They are astoundingly good people.

9 comments:

  1. Beautifully conceived and written. I'm in North Carolina with my father, in whom they've just found cancer, and so your words touched me deeply.

    Thanks. I'm gonna go pick up some rocks for our Old Men.

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  2. Thank you, Jason. I can't get my Dad off my mind today. Sometimes I can block it out, but it sneaks back in from time to time. I am deeply sorry about your Dad's diagnosis, and I hope he can fight it. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family.
    ~kim

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  3. Beautifully said, Kimberly. I work with the elderly with dementia, and their families, every day. There can be a lot of heartbreak all around. God bless you.

    Dr. Douglas Faulder

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  4. The sad thing is that people affected by Alzheimers lose the ability to experience heppiness or joy I have worked with many of them and have never seen anyone laugh or even smile.

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  5. I'm glad that whenever I wonder why I bother reading blogs, a post like this, one that inspires you to go out and do something, comes across my screen.

    Wonderful sentiments and brilliantly related; thank you for that. For a change we had a wonderful thanks giving, not just a Thanksgiving meal. I hope you all did, too.

    -Mike

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  6. Mike ~ Thanks for your beautiful comments and sharing the concept of thanks giving being so much more than just a meal. The post about my Dad wasn't easy for me to write, but I needed to get it off of my heart, and I hoped that it might help others in some way. Thank you for making me feel like it was worth writing!

    Douglas ~ Ironically enough, my Mother is the activities coordinator in the Alzheimer’s unit of a nursing facility. I've spent quite a bit of time volunteering there and it’s heartbreaking to see the effects of this dreadful disease. My Mother is an absolute angel who’s never ending patience, tenderness, and compassion brings great comfort to the residents and their families. Thank you for the work that you do! I know it isn't easy, but people like you make such a difference for the patients and the families that suffer along with them.

    ~kim

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  7. This post really touched me. Thanks Kim. I don't think its terrible at all and I know very much how you feel.

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  8. Thank you for posting this - and linking back to it a few years later. It was a rough year (2009, at least) but in many ways, it keeps on going... I'm not sure that my dad knows what's going on anymore either, but they say stroke victims DO know but get their communication crossed when they try to speak. But it's the same page of struggle and heartbreak that I guess we find what makes us human.

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