A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to the beach for a few days. It was a much needed mini-vacay to relax and unwind.
I was sitting there on the beach one day, reading a mindless, light book, when it hit me. It had been hours since I thought about my mom and dad.
It struck panic and horror in my chest. How could I? How could I forget about them so easily? I must be an awful, terrible person. What is wrong with me? Just sitting here on the beach with my husband, mindlessly reading some stupid book. I should be ashamed of myself.
Then I began to think about how my mom and dad would never be able to go to the beach again, even though my mom always hated the beach. I thought about how my dad probably wishes he could go away for a few days to relax and unwind. He is much more deserving of a vacation than I am. I thought about all of the full-time caregivers out there. They are all much more deserving of this trip than I am.
And so on and so forth I went, convincing myself that I didn’t belong on that beach.
But then, I had another thought. I am going to self-sabotage this experience with my guilt and negative thoughts. I am going to ruin this mini-vacay with my loving husband if I continue down this thought path. I need to quit while I’m ahead.
And so, I did.
Why didn’t I deserve to be on that beach with my husband that day? My mom and dad did plenty of things together when they were my age. They spent a lot of time together before my mom got Alzheimer’s. This journey is a part of their story, but it’s not their whole story. In fact, compared to their whole lives, this is the shortest part of their story.
My mom and dad never expected their lives to end up this way. This disease was never a thought in their minds. But it is a thought in mine. What if my life ends up this way? What if my husband ends up taking care of me someday? What if I end up taking care of him? Shouldn’t we be making the most of our lives while we can? Shouldn’t we be doing the things and taking the trips? If not now, when?
We never know what will happen in our lives. We don’t know what successes and failures or triumphs and hardships will come our way. All we know is this moment. That’s all we have to work with. We can’t let the guilt and negative thoughts ruin it. These things will never fully go away, but we can fight against them to take back our lives.
Don’t let Alzheimer’s steal all of your joy. Don’t let it take more than it already has. Don’t let it take over your mind while you’re sitting on a beach 1,000 miles away. You deserve a break. You deserve to live this life. And don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t.