While cleaning out some documents on my computer, I happened upon the following letter I sent to a couple of my closest friends back in early August of 2010, about a month after arriving here at my daughter’s. This shows more of my feelings at that time than anything I could write at this later date.
I wish to thank my dear friends in the past difficult months, for caring and giving me help and hope that things could get better. I am eternally grateful to you all. GOOD NEWS: The NCOA (National Council on Aging) FINALLY got ahold of me, and the past week has been a flurry of hunting for paperwork, filling out forms and applications,running for interviews and….I am in a training program for “older” adults (you must be 55 and have no job.) I will be training in a division of the senior care center – with 7 people with dementia. I met them all on Weds., stayed with them during their lunch and rest time after. After a few minutes, most had their eyes closed or were asleep, but one woman was restless. I went over to sit on the floor next to her chair. Her hands were cold, so I covered one with one of mine and held the one nearest me. She squeezed my hand, smiled, and what followed was the most remarkable conversation! These people do not have short-term memory, but remember the most wonderful things from long ago! When it was time for me to leave, I told her I would see her Friday. She lifted my hand to her lips for a gentle kiss. I almost cried, kissed her forehead, and left. It’s only 20 hours or less, dependent on funding, at minimum wage, but I will be earning something and hopefully doing something useful.
Finally, I can do SOMETHING to help my daughter and myself, and perhaps bring a moment of joy to the dear people I will be working with.
I called them OLD, and here I am a few months shy of 60 myself! I did think of these as dear ones as old, for there is so little animation in these souls with dementia. I hope through reading and learning that I can help to see the spark in each that I shared with that one dear lady yesterday.
The main problem with doing this “training” is I cannot receive income from any other source. I was hoping when Walmart hires temps for X-mas that I could work 16 hours there, but it is not allowed. This is considered a training program to help an individual get hired, and if you work at all anywhere else, you are out of the program. This means I am limited to the 14 to 20 hours at minimum wage that I receive through this training.
So I must call Mark in NYC on Monday and tell him I can no longer send the few puzzles they are asking me for. The NCOA has allowed that I can receive the income from the puzzles that remain in Dell’s files as they use them, but cannot generate any more work for them.
To pick up the phone, dial my editor and tell him this…I don’t know if you can imagine the turmoil and stress this causes me. I of course realize the bit I have received now and then from them is less than a pittance, but that is only the monetary viewpoint.
For 27 years, I have been “the puzzle lady”. I was in Who’s Who of American Women for 4 years as the puzzle lady. I lived, ate, breathed “puzzles”. Years ago I took my older three who were then young, lol, swimming….I was at a picnic table while they were in the lake, one eye on them, the other doing puzzles. I took them to parks to play, the puzzles went also. All night marathons filling page after page with pencil puzzles and word games. Creating new ones, filling orders for ones I already was constructing for them. Trial testing the work of other constructors…I’m sure you have seen “Sudoku”. They used to be called “Number Place”, and I alone made by hand every one that appeared in Dell publications.
And with one call, it will be officially over. I have lost my youth, lost my two marriages to alcohol (neither me nor the children could compete with the drink, first love of an alcoholic), lost my home, and now I lose completely my beloved work which has defined me since 1983. This insult added to the injury of losing the home I worked my whole life for is breaking me, I am trying to see around it, but right now it feels like my whole life, my whole ME is gone like a breath on the wind.
All the cliched “it will be okay’s” are for nought at this moment in time, for all that I have worked for since I began at 15 in a dairy, all I have done in these long years, all I have sacrificed and built with my own two hands, all that has defined ME, is gone. I feel as though this phone call that I must make will leave an empty shell of the person I have been.
Yes, I have my children and grandchildren, but I am referring to the personal ME. The puzzles were not just “a job”.
My heart is heavy. I feel so trapped with no way out. I will not be able to even consider getting Meg and me a place to live on the $500 or less I can make a month in the training program and am not allowed to make more. Unless I win the lottery it appears we will spend the afternoons by the old tiny camper and sleep in my daughter’s living room. I don’t know how this happened. My head does, but my heart just doesn’t understand. Tears leak at the oddest moment, unbidden, unstoppable.
Me wouldn’t be so bad. But dragging my daughter through this tears at my very soul. She needs a room, a place to read and think and dream. A place for a few personal things which are sitting in a garage down in Charlotte.
No one has the answers for me, I know. I also am aware there are those who don’t even have a couch to sleep on. But I have always been a doer, and I am helpless to know how to begin again….
Well, thank you for listening to me in my hours of despair. I sincerely am trying to see a small light in this long, dark tunnel.