Handing Over the Reigns of Responsibility

Leah Health Guide
  • What an exhausting, but rewarding, weekend! About 150 of my relatives enjoyed our 35th annual family reunion picnic. I'd like to talk about the effects dementia has had on my responsibilities working on our family reunion.


    The annual family reunion requires a great deal of preparation. It was started 35 years ago by my aunts and uncles. The committee today is comprised of the next generation - all first cousins. As in years past, my part involves pre-planning the committee meeting, making signs and some nametags, buying hotdogs and half smokes, helping make a huge amount of fruit salad, and writing the opening ceremony as well as presenting it the day of the picnic. Now, this all sounds pretty straight forward and easy. It used to be. But times have changed for me.

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    Problems for me started last year. I always make up the agenda and lead the planning meeting. But last year, I forgot we were even having a meeting and I didn't attend! Talk about being upset! That was one of my earlier forgetful moments - before I knew I had dementia.


    This year, I managed to remember the meeting. It was held at MY house, just so I'd show up! (Well, not really. We usually meet at our cousin's home, but sadly,we lost her to breast cancer in February '07.)


    I can't say all went well at this year's planning meeting, though. Before the meeting, I made up the agenda from an old one because I couldn't remember what we normally talked about at these things. Once the meeting started, there was a flurry of discussion and I discovered I had used a very outdated meeting as a template!! Once again, I was embarrassed.


    My next responsibility was to make the signs and name tags. I have used PrintShop for years, so making these is normally pretty easy for me. But this year, I wanted to make individual name tags for committee members- tags with the names already printed on them- so I taught myself to do so. Of course, my sister ended up with seven name tags! I suggested we place them all over her front and back, but she didn't think that was as funny as I did.


    Responsibility number three - ordering the chicken - was easy. I asked my husband to do that, and he did an excellent job! Later, I had to pick up what I thought was supposed to be 6 pounds of hot dogs and 6 pounds of half smokes. A month ago, I picked up a box of half smokes from BJ's and put them into the freezer. Last week, I picked up six pounds of hot dogs.


    On Saturday morning, I left to help set up the reunion site. I remembered the hot dogs, but forgot the half smokes, so I had to call and ask my husband to bring the half smokes to me where we were setting up. He called back to say there were only hot dogs in the freezer. I had bought 12 pounds of hot dogs and had NO half smokes!! Only a small kink, I thought. I would just go out and buy the half smokes later that day. Six pounds of them.


    "NO!" said my sister.


    "Oh, no!" called out my cousin, Julian.


    "You're supposed to buy 12 pounds of half smokes," they called in unison.


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    "Twelve pounds? I don't remember that," I said. And so, we pulled out the committee report notes and there it was - 6 pounds hot dogs, 12 pounds half smokes. And so I bought 12 pounds of half smokes that day. Boy, I never knew buying hot dogs and half smokes could be so hard!


    The last thing I had to do was to write the opening ceremonies. It took me hours and hours to write this small speech which would take me less than a half hour to deliver. The first problem I encountered was that I could not remember the entire Pledge of Allegiance, something that I had said every school day for at least 46 years.


    Once at the picnic, I went over the opening ceremony papers with my daughter who was supposed to emcee for me this year. Unfortunately, her cough kept her from that job this year, so I had to do it once again. I went over the papers with her anyway, as I wanted her to get her feet wet. I must have gone over these opening ceremony papers three or four times before I realized I had brought only the first draft copy - not the final copy! Once again, my wonderfully understanding husband came to my rescue. I called him while he was still back at our house picking up the hotdogs, and he found my final copy sitting on my desk near my computer.




    Having dementia has sure added a different dimension to working on my family reunion! I can see that the time has come to let others take up more of the responsibility. Being somewhat of a control freak, this is hard. I feel like a failure. I feel like I am too young to be handing over the reigns this quickly. I feel like I still have too a lot to offer.


    And, so, it is at this time that I need to do some deep soul searching. I am praying about it. I need to come to some decisions in the future. Decisions that I can be at peace with - which is not easy.

Published On: October 17, 2007