Friday, April 12, 2013
Today is one of those days. You know, those days when you’re tired and little things make you want to cry. That’s what today is for me. Even as I sit here and type I have tears ready to spill down my cheeks. It isn’t that it’s a horrible or bad day for mom, it’s a lost day. I guess that’s the best way to explain it. She’s lost today… a lot. Let me recount the events of today and maybe you’ll see why I’m so close to bawling.
6:30 am- Mom gets up with Dad and comes out to the kitchen for breakfast while dad gets ready for work. She’s dressed in her nightshirt, sleep pants, slippers and a hoodie sweatshirt. She looks at me and I know it’s going to be a lost day. She sees me and talks to me but can’t find her way to the kitchen table. I keep encouraging her to come around the island and sit down but she stands in the doorway of the kitchen and doesn't move. Dad walks in and leads her to the table. She sits down and just holds her head in her hands. I have already laid out her bowl, spoon and the box of cereal is sitting there. It takes a few moments and finally she realizes it’s time to eat. I’m learning not to do it for her; she will get it poured when she’s ready. If she asks for help, dad or I help her.
7:30 am- Dad leaves for work and mom asks what today’s plans are. I tell her she has time to listen to her book and that I need to get another hour of sleep. I also tell her we will be going to my bank and taking Dad to lunch. She likes going to lunch with dad so she’s happy with the plan. I take her coffee and help her walk down the hall to her office. Once the book starts playing she tells me “you can leave now. I have Morelli and Ranger to keep me company.” I shut the door to her office but stand outside it for a moment. What I hear breaks my heart because she is talking to the characters of the book, “It’s going to be okay Morelli. I’m here to watch you now.”
I crawl back in to bed with Belle and we fall asleep quickly. When I wake up its 9:10 am and I can hear mom giggling over the story. That makes me smile. I peek in on her and let her know I’m getting in the shower. She looks at me and says, “Why? Are you going somewhere today?”
“Yes momma. You and I are taking dad to lunch today after we got to the bank.”
“Do I have to go along? You can take dad to lunch by yourself. I don’t want to leave the guys.”
“You have to go along momma because I need you to hold the change jar so it doesn’t tip over in my van. Then we’ll take dad to lunch.”
“Oh, okay. I guess I can go along. Now leave me alone with the guys.”
And I do. After my shower, as I’m drying my hair I can watch mom through the bathroom mirror. She is sitting in her desk chair, looking at a book and talking to herself. I can’t hear her, but I can see her mouth move and am able to read her lips. “I can’t read this. I need new glasses. They won’t give me new glasses. They don’t want me to read.”
I swallow the giant lump in my throat and look away. It’s hard to see my mom unable to do something she’s done forever. I get my love of reading from her and my dad. On family trips I’d pack a doll and 5 books, my brothers would pack toys and Walkmans. I look up again and she’s staring at her knitting needles… and I know that look. It’s the look that begs to remember how to make those needles work.
10:20 am- We are getting ready to walk out the door. She asks me twice if I’ve locked up Belle. As I help put on her jacket she pleads with me not to make her dizzy. I’ve finally figured out that when she is trying to put on her jacket she ends up spinning in a circle. I tell her to stand still and I will walk around her to get the jacket on. She smiles at this because she isn’t dizzy. I swallow another lump because it’s one more thing she can’t do by herself anymore. We get to the van and she gets in and I buckle her up. I put the change jars between her feet and she starts mumbling a song about pennies and dimes. I just smile.
10:45 am- I’m inside the bank and mom is waiting in the van. I worry when she stays out there- will she talk to a stranger, will she have a panic attack? When I get back out to the van, she’s got the window wide open and she waves at me. I grin because she recognizes me. When I’m settled in, she tells me a man knocked on the window and asked where she got her jacket. I don’t know if this is true or not. There wasn’t a vehicle next to us when I parked or when I came out of the bank. I suppose it could be but I am pretty sure she’s imagined this man. I just nod and listen to her story.
11:15 am- We arrive at dad’s office early so we sit and wait. Mom starts telling me about the book she’s listening to and what’s happening. I’ve read this same book and most of what she says isn’t what the author wrote. I just nod and agree with her. It’s hurting no one. She speaks of the characters as if she had lunch with them yesterday. It makes me smile that she’s so vested in them, but also makes me sad because she doesn’t talk about dad or I that way anymore.
12:30 pm- After lunch, we head over to the beauty salon for quick haircuts. As I’m about to help her out of the car I notice her shoes are on the wrong feet. I fix them, but end up wondering when she switched them because when we left the house this morning they were on the right feet. We can’t get in to see the stylist for 45 minutes so we head over to Wal-Mart. While we’re in Wal-Mart, we both need to use the restroom. Mom has to have me hold the door for her because she can’t get the lock to work. I stand there as women come and go. I get looks but they assume I’m holding the door for a child. When she comes out I help her wash up and tell her now it’s my turn. She stands next to the wall and I can see her through the crack in the stall door. Her expression shows her confusion- she’s not smiling, her eyes are darting around and she’s fiddling with the rings on her fingers. I call out, “I’m almost done mom. I’ll be right out.” She calms down. And once again I’m swallowing a lump and holding the tears at bay.
We pick out shoes and a shirt for mom. She doesn’t want her sweatshirt on while she gets her hair cut, but only has on her thin night shirt because she wouldn’t give in on changing in to a regular shirt before we left the house this morning. We get out to the van and I help her take off the sweatshirt and put the new flannel shirt on. She is excited about her new shirt and can’t wait to show it to my dad. I make a quick call to my cousin and I can see mom get upset. She doesn’t like when I talk on the phone. I don’t know why, but she doesn’t like it. I have to hide my phone calls from her now. I resent it a bit, but I’ll get over it. I am the one who needs to change because she can’t anymore. Next week she may not be bothered by me being on the phone, or maybe she will. I never know.
1:15 pm- Mom is getting her hair cut and is chatting well with the stylist. I am wondering how long it will be before I can’t take her outside the house for these type of things. When she’s done, it’s my turn. She sits in the waiting area and talks with an elderly man that came in. I can’t hear them but she seems fine.
2:08 pm (I noticed the time because the question caught me so off guard) - As I’m driving home mom asks if her shoes are on right. I look down and they aren’t so I try to help her figure it out the best I can. “Do you hate my disability? It must annoy you that I can’t do this stuff by myself.”
“Your disability?” I don’t know what she means.
“Yeah, I can’t see and I can’t do things for myself.”
“Oh. No momma, I don’t.” Swallow a huge lump.
“Oh, okay then. Thanks.” And she says no more.
2:15 pm- We arrive home. Mom keeps raving about her new haircut. I mention that she needs to take a shower now. It’s like I told her she was going to be murdered. She instantly starts telling me it’s not necessary, that she had one just yesterday (try three days ago) and that she’s going to tell dad on me. I, however, notice that she keeps scratching at her neckline and use this to my advantage. I convince her that taking a shower will get rid of all the hair pieces that are making her itchy. While she’s in the shower I start to think back to September when I first came out here. I didn’t have to remind her about showering back then. I didn’t even have to help her. Now, I’m the mom helping a child learn the steps of a shower - except I have to do this every time she showers. I have to hand things to her, make sure she rinses all the shampoo out, lets the conditioner sit on long enough, etc.
Today she complains the water is too hot, then too cold. She tells me she’s going to tell dad that I’m “trying to burn her butt off” and that I’ve “tried to drown her by making the shower water go in her ears.” I laugh it off and tell her she sounds like Goldilocks with the too hot, too cold. She giggles and says I am the annoying Momma bear. I just smile at her and give her the conditioner for her hair.
3:00 pm Now I am downstairs writing and she’s up in her office with Morelli and Ranger. I can hear her laugh and hear her stomp her feet on the floor when something funny happens. I am swallowing the lump once again and hoping the tears don’t fall.
When I came out here in September mom was more independent. Not completely, but more so than she is now. She could cut up her own food back then, now it’s me or dad helping her- she tries but the knife ends up at an angle and she just gets a sliver cut off. She used to pick out her own clothes every day, now it’s up to me or dad to pick them out. If we’re not leaving the house, she stays in her pj’s all day. The days we go out, I have to convince her that frog covered sleep pants with black bootie slippers are not suitable for wearing to the bank or out to lunch. She used to be able to find you if she wandered off in Wal-Mart or whatever store we were in. Now, if you let go of her hand or she lets go of your arm, she gets scared and starts to step backwards not aware of her surroundings. (Yeah, the fight with the tears has been lost) We used to banter back and forth about buying the ugliest shirt we could find for each other. We used to laugh about the weird outfits people wear to shop at Wal-Mart. Now there’s not any joking. I’ve got to be very careful about every word I say because one wrong word and she can get very upset. And I don’t want that to happen in public. Not because it will embarrass me, but because it’s stressful on her. It tires her out and she doesn’t need that. I have to watch her every moment because she can be out of sight faster than a two year old. I am careful of carts coming at her because she doesn’t recognize them and they scare her. I try to go down empty aisles so she can walk next to me and not feel like I’m pulling her along. I tell her to turn right or left when needed and I use my arm to gently push her one way or the other.
When she says “I didn’t see that” or “I can’t see that” I know it’s not a vision thing, that it’s a recognition thing. I see how in just 7 ½ months my mom is losing her battle with dementia a bit more every day. On her good days, which are becoming fewer and fewer, I can see glimpses of my “old” mom. I treasure those glimpses. And on her bad days, I hide my tears or frustration or fear from her. She doesn’t need that. I write or color or go take a long shower to let it all out. All momma needs is to know she’s safe, loved and taken care of. And that’s why I’m here.