Friday, February 20, 2015

"Like You Used To"

Just over 1 year later and the posts about Carol Burnett on this blog are still being discovered - to the tune of about 150 people per week.

To date, more than 220,000 people have read the posts (including Ms. Burnett, herself!).  It went viral on Facebook.  Rosie O'Donnell tweeted the story out to her almost 800,000 @Rosie followers, calling me a "beautiful person" in the process.  Over 100 people have left comments on the blog postings.  And I've lost track of the number of emails I still receive from people all over the world, thanking me for sharing this story and talking about how Alzheimer's affects their lives and the lives of the ones they love.  In many instances, I find myself acting as a counselor and cheerleader to people who feel - quite simply - helpless.

This is both the farthest and furthest reaching achievement of my life.  Nothing else I've ever done has touched as many people as sharing this story.  I gave up on this blog a few years ago after a very successful run, then resurrected it during my time in Miami, just so I would have a creative outlet.  Surprisingly, the top 10 stories read on my blog all date back no further than August 2013; NOT surprising, the two posts about Ms. Burnett rank as #1 and #2.  I guess there is a message in here somewhere about success and second chances and all that.

My dad is doing well and seems to be living a comfortable life.  He doesn't walk anymore, pretty much confined to a wheelchair.  He has good days and great days and bad days.  And so does Mom.  Although for her, Dad's good days can sometimes translate into her bad days.  For on the days when he's doing well and is communicating openly, Mom feels guilt that he now lives in a nursing home, second-guessing if he should be back home instead.  And then on days when Dad is not doing well, I'm sure Mom feels some relief that he is where he needs to be, of course juxtaposing those emotions with concern for his well-being.  Perhaps Dad's good days are best for everyone.  Good is good enough.

I haven't been home since Christmas, but am eager to visit in two weeks.  I obviously see changes in him with each visit.  At the end of our Christmas trip, Kevin and I stopped by the nursing home to say good-bye to Dad.  When I told Dad we were leaving and I would see him soon, he just looked at me and looked away.  But when Kevin followed with a "see you later, John", Dad looked up at him and tears welled in his eyes.  Of course I joked with a "oh sure, YOU get tears!", but we can't help but wonder what it all means to him. And the ugly fact is that we will never know.

I've been asked to share something that inspires me at work's staff meeting next month.  I'll be sharing the story about Dad and Ms. Burnett because it's truly inspirational.  There is always hope.  And you never know from where inspiration will come.  And that a seemingly small act from one person can ripple around the world, touching thousands.

And all because my Dad, a man who seems to have completely lost all his memories, said 4 little words to me that might have been lost on anyone else:  "like you used to".