Hope (06/27/07)

Dear Zelda,
  
I have met this wonderful guy. We have been going out for six months now and we so much want to be together. He is 40 and I am 36, but his mother just won't let it happen because he is not working at the moment. Please can you tell us what to do?
 
Woman in Waiting
 
Dear Woman in Waiting,
 
Isn’t love grand?  When the phone rings your heart races to answer and you hope that it’s HIM!  Blame it on pheromones or fate, there is no better feeling than the passion and energy that comes with a new flame. If only love was so simple. But then jobs, expectations, and sometimes even mothers get involved, and suddenly your puppy love finds itself in the dog house.
 
There are always obstacles in romance, but fortunately in this case it sounds like there’s at least one simple solution, shocking though it may be—your boyfriend can get a job. If this is truly the issue that’s keeping you apart, I think it’s only reasonable to expect that he try and find some form of employment. Mind you the benefits of employment stretch far beyond simply quieting down the shrieks of mad moms; jobs are also good for things like getting a paycheck, establishing a professional identity, building a sense of independence, and contributing to society, to name just a few. At forty, I would think this would be a goal for your boyfriend regardless of your relationship, so it sounds to me like the path of least resistance leads directly to a job hunt.
 
But before you go riding off into the sunset of blissful employment, carefree romance, and parental blessings, I think there is a larger issue that you and he need to work through. Your boyfriend, employed or not, is forty years old, and is therefore a certified, card-carrying adult. It doesn’t take a bloodhound to sniff out that it’s a little strange he still allows his mother to hold such power over his romantic decisions. We queen bees would always like to run our children’s lives for them, but fortunately our children are generally savvy enough to tell us to buzz off, and we try to be wise enough to take their advice.
 
If your relationship with this man is going to move forward,  you are both going to have to work on fostering a relationship of healthy, respectful independence from Mom. Easier said than done, of course—lifetimes have been spent trying, and failing, to accomplish this goal—but if you can prove to Mom that her son is able to establish himself on his own, this will go a long way.
 
The Fourth of July is just around the corner, which makes it the perfect time for your boyfriend to strike out, find his own job, make his own choices in love, and sign his own ‘Declaration of Independence’ from Mom. Don’t give up on love. Believe in it and never settle for anything less, but make sure it’s healthy too. Here’s hoping you find happiness.
 
Zelda
 
Dear Zelda,
 
As a fourteen-year-old girl who has a great grandmother with Alzheimer's who I'm very close to... “hope” is a thing that I always look for. But as she gets sicker and I get more angry at the disease, “hope” becomes more and more hard to find for both me and my family! Please try and help me find a way to stay positive! Fondly,
 
Looking For Hope
 
Dear Looking For Hope,
 
I’m so sorry to hear about your struggle. Alzheimer’s has been called “the long goodbye” and for your great-grandmother and your family the pain and sadness of this process is unbelievably difficult. We experienced this disease first-hand here in the Zelda household a few years ago, and the hurt is still fresh with us. But it is wonderful that you have had such a close relationship with your great-grandmother, and I know that as time passes she will need and want you by her side, even if she can’t always show it. I’m sure you have beautiful memories of growing up around her as she taught you, played games with you, and offered you that unconditional love that grandmas and great-grandmas (and we dogs) are famous for. Now you have an opportunity to be there for her, and to give back some of the spoiling and unconditional love she once gave you.
 
It’s okay to be angry and sad when you visit her, but don’t let her feel your frustrations. Instead be positive and plan activities you know she will enjoy—whether it’s looking at old photo albums, listening to music or sharing stories from your daily life, your friends, your interests, your plans. If you are fortunate enough to have a pet, share your pet with her as well. Trust me, the precise activity doesn’t matter as much as the interaction and love you share. Incidentally, there is a terrific computer activity called The Living Center accessible on the web at http://www.pbs.org/theforgetting/together/index.html. The Living Center is a comfortable “home on the web” for people with Alzheimer’s and a great way to learn more about a person’s interests and experiences. It hosts a diverse collection of sights and sounds made specifically for family and friends to enjoy with someone who has Alzheimer’s.
 
There is also hope for the future, and scientists are soon expected to announce final test results for the first in a new generation of drugs designed to attack the underlying cause of Alzheimer’s disease (June 07 AARP Bulletin). “Within three years, it’s all but certain we’ll have disease-modifying drugs that fundamentally change the nature of Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. Sam Gandy, chair of the National Medical and Scientific Advisory Council of the Alzheimer’s Association. This is hopeful news for all of us, especially the 5.1 million people in the United States who suffer from the disease.
 
But as you know, even in the most optimistic of medical situations this is still a one-way street, and ultimately your hope needs to come, not from false wishes for medical miracles, but from the unique chances this disease gives you, your family, and your great-grandmother to make up your own narrative for the last chapter of her life. I’m sure your great-grandmother has taught you a lot over the years, and through this process of living with Alzheimer’s, she now has the chance to teach you even more important lessons... about how to live one’s life well even through adversity, about how to find dignity in small things, and ultimately about how to say goodbye. “The long goodbye” may be painful, but it is precisely that long goodbye that gives us hope, because it allows us time to say and do the things we know we should, and to really, truly learn how to say goodbye to someone we love so much.
 
Hope is worth hanging onto… don’t let go of it. You are a GREAT granddaughter!

Zelda

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