Monday, June 7, 2010


She is disappearing, large clumps of her are falling away, not in the physical but in the cerebral.

When my sons were little and they would come home from school having learned something new, they were so excited. They were little knowledge sponges. "I know all 50 state capitals, want to hear me?" "Did you know that there use to be snow a mile deep right here over our house?" "I learned this new song on my guitar, listen."

It is like the opposite is happening with my Mother. Her knowledge sponge is drying out. Clumps of knowledge are no longer there. Two years ago it was buttons, phones, and remote controls. Last year it was driving. This spring it was the time of day and dates.

Now, it is jigsaw puzzles. I know you may think it's a small thing, to not be able to put a jigsaw puzzle together. I think it is really telling. I remember my little boys, very little boys, learning to put together puzzles. You could see their brains working, their eyes jumping around, taking in everything: the color, the size, the shape of the piece, the relationship to others around it; the joy when one piece connected with another.

It is the opposite with my Mother. We went from 1000 piece puzzles, to 750, to 500, to 100. She no longer can methodically do a puzzle: put the flat sided edge pieces together, take out the red pieces that make up the "barn", gather the purple "flowers" together, put together these pieces with the letters and words. She makes up excuses: the pieces are too small, they are all shaped alike, there is too much sky, they fall off the table...

Mom is a puzzle, she is Humpty Dumpty, and no one can put her back together again.

1 comment:

Southern gal said...

I can really relate to this post. It seems that my husband is only about half of his former self, now that he has had dementia for several years. His personality is muted, and, like your mother, is losing capabilities as he goes along. We also were working jigsaw puzzles recently. When the 500 piece puzzle was too much for him, we went to 300, then 100. He only had a vague idea of how to put together pieces. We still play backgammon, which we used to do all the time. Now I have to coach him through the whole game and remind him which direction to move.

Still, it not's quite like the reverse of childhood, because he still retains much of his knowledge, including some advanced vocabulary.

Yesterday, he went to pick out some clothes to put on; I was coaching him from across the room. He walked right past his dresser without noticing it. I called him back, and said, "Your shorts are in the third drawer, and your T-shirts are in the fourth drawer." I reflected that a little child would know where his clothes were kept, but wouldn't understand "third drawer".