Sunday, February 12, 2012

where is he?

Mom loves her photographs. For a few years now, she has been tearing apart the photo albums and re-sorting the pictures. Sorting them into groups that don't make any sense to me.  When Mom moved into assisted living, we moved her card-table with the mountain of photos, as it was, into her new apartment, so this "project" would be there for her to work on.  She really has not touched it since.

At my visit on Thursday, I brought her more photos from "home" and then, in an attempt to clean her apartment, we spent two hours going through the pile of pictures on the card-table. The layer of dust on the pictures got us both sneezing.

She told me stories about each photo. Stories that I knew were not real, true, or accurate. But sometimes Mom would pop-out a golden bit of knowledge, that would surprise me.

We were looking at a picture of me, at 1 years old, sitting on my Dad's knee on the front steps of our new home. "That's JL and the baby." she says. She does not say "her" or "you" or my name. She can't connect the baby to the woman sitting beside her.  "I wonder where JL is? I haven't seen him in a long time." Mom says this with the tone in her voice, like she thinks he's wandered off to Texas. I gasp and sputter, once again shocked by Mom's words.  I divert her attention to the next photo.

Many of the pictures were from her time teaching; the musicals she put on with her students, the bulletin boards in her classroom, the projects the students worked on, the outings and trips they took.  She was very excited to talk about her time as a second grade teacher.

There were many photos from her college years. Adventures with her sorority sisters. Class trips and other activities. "You remember swimming at Xyz Lake!" she giggled.  "We stayed in Jane's family cabin, remember, it was fun, we were all together, you remember." She would then press me to tell her what I remembered about this vacation. I forgot to fib. I forgot to "be with her in her place."  I told her I could not have been there, as I had not been born yet. Then she got angry, cause she was "right" and I was "wrong" and that "of course I should remember this vacation!"

Divert, divert, on to the next photo.

A picture of Mom and Dad on their honeymoon.  They are standing on a hilltop or cliff, with the mountains behind them. A tiny black and white photo of two skinny young people. "Oh, there's JL." she groans. "I wonder where HE is these days?"  she looks at me for an answer. "Where IS he?"  I don't know what to do. Do I give her a fiblet or the truth?
"Mom, Dad's been dead for about 12 years." I say quietly.
"Oh? Humpf." she mutters and looks at the next photo.

So much for remembering my Father's five year slow decline to death. I guess those memories didn't stay with her. So much for the grieving widow. Should I be glad that she didn't fall apart at this "news" about Dad? Dammmdementia I hate you.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

groundhog day

You remember the movie Groundhog Day, where Phil has to relive Groundhog Day over and over. He knows each day is a new day, full of new opportunities or the dread of repetition. For him, the calendar will not advance to February third.

Then there is the movie Fifty First Dates, where Lucy's brain is stuck. She wakes up every morning thinking it's the Sunday of her accident, over and over.  In the movie she meets Ten-Second-Tom, who's memory loop lasts ten seconds.

Where Mom lives there is a woman, that I think of as Ten-Minute-Tina.  She is like Tom, in ten minutes she has already forgotten what has gone on before. Every ten minutes she asks the same questions "Why am I here?" "Where am I?" "How do I pay for this?"  And every ten minutes the staff, and her compassionate neighbors, try to answer her questions.

Ten-Minute-Tina's repetitive questions bother my Mother, because these are the same questions that bother her. "Why am I here?" Mom might not have spent time worrying about that question today, if Tina had not expressed it herself, over and over.

The staff is so good, giving Tina a reassuring answer, and then diverting the conversation to safe and happy topics, over and over.


I hate being yelled at.
I hate being screamed at.
I hate being belittled by my mother.
I hate her demented behavior where she screams at me because I've done something "stupid."

This was NOT how I was brought up.
These are not the behaviors of MY mother.

Who is this evil woman who has taken over my mother body?

Dammmmm dementia I hate you.

the snowplow

Mom has been slow to get up out of a chair for a few years. The muscles in the top of her thigh are just not doing their share of the work. For a few months she has been rocking herself to launch out of chairs, "one two three umpf" using her arms and the sturdy arms of the chair to help her up and out. Long ago, I realized that sitting her in a low soft sofa was not a good idea.

The past 15 months that she's been living in assisted living, she's gained about 20 pounds. That additional weight has not been helpful.

Now Mom's walking has become much worse. She was becoming a slow walker, now she is creeping. I notice that she is doing a lot more "cruising". That behavior that babies do when they learn to walk, they walk from table, to chair, to sofa, to chair, holding on to one thing after another. This is what Mom is now doing. 

She is also walking with her thighs and knees together, only swinging out her lower leg and foot. When I went to imitate her motions, I recognized it as the snowplow ski position. She has found stability in her snowplow position while she walks: bent at the hips and knees, leaning a bit forward, knees and thighs together, feet apart, toes pointing in.

Because she is still walking, she thinks there is nothing wrong. In her mind she is still running swiftly down the halls.  Trying to get her to use a walker would bring about a huge fight. Do you think she would accept ski poles?