Staying at my 87 year old grandfathers house this Christmas was a little like Vegas. I approached the entire event with enthusiasm but I left broke, disoriented and with the newfound knowledge that I had developed OCD over the holiday. I didn’t know you could catch OCD like a virus (or a Vegas STD), but I’m now convinced it is possible.
Pre-children Reesie wasn’t much for any real structure or routine. I could take it or leave it and sudden changes in my life, work, home, entertainment or even sleep schedule was approached as either a non event or with enthusiasm. I’ll take different and new over structure and routine any day.
Post-children Reesie clings to routine and structure like teenagers cling to their smartphones. If i’m not staring at it with blazing intensity and focus, the world as I know it might end. I still don’t need it personally, but if I don’t provide some rigid structure for our household, everyone loses their damn minds. The wheels fall off the bus and chaos reigns.
The irony is rich as me providing structure for our family is like asking a gas station attendant to provide technical advice to the NASA space team. I’m really not qualified for this particular aspect of being a mother.
When I was younger I read a horrible and depressing book about a family that went to great lengths to convince the teenager in their home that she was insane. I don’t remember anything else about the plot line, but they would convince her she was living the same day over and over and then jump to months away and then convince her it was months in the past. She would cling to any scrap of her life that was familiar. I’m pretty sure the book was one of those horrible Flowers in the Attic series by V.C. Andrews. I’m not a fan.
DementiaAt 87 years old, my grandfather is doing the same thing. He clings to his OCD tendencies like they are a lifeline to his sanity. It’s worrisome as his OCD is not a trait he had as a young man or even an older adult. It developed in his late 70s. At this point Granddad’s OCD has gone from quaint and adorable to rabid and vicious if too many things are changed at once. Each time we come to visit, more routines and items are added to his list of things that have to happen in the exact order he needs them to happen.
I was talking to a man over Thanksgiving about books he liked to read in his spare time. He said he would only read or even watch non-fiction. He said he needed to keep all the facts straight. He didn’t say want, he said needed. I’m not sure he realized how much terror he reveled in that one sentence. His mother had Alzheimers for the last portion of her life. It was pretty clear he was determined to do anything possible not to be sucked down into that same abyss.
I understand ugly endings. Anything I’ve ever loved and lost has claw marks on it. I’m not really a fan of going gently into the good night.
How do you hold on to yourself though? What makes a man a man? Exactly where into that long slow slide into the abyss are you really lost? Is it the routine and structure that is a real lifeline or are you already lost at that point?
The world is a dangerous place. If it doesn’t work the way we believe it does, the danger becomes unmanageable. Maybe late in life OCD is just focusing on the little things so the war with yourself is a little more manageable. A thin, threadbare lifeline to help you hover over the abyss.
Hold on Granddad.