Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Saddest Thing of All

My mother is into full-blown dementia now. She often thinks I'm her sister or even her mother. She doesn't believe she lives in this house but harkens back to a previous address. Why her mind has chosen that particular place to call "home", I have no idea. There was nothing special about it. It was a double-wide mobile home in a very nice park and all my aunts were alive then so maybe it was the companionable things they did together that now makes that memory so appealing. She constantly begs me to take her there. I even drove the 60 miles to show her that the trailer court is a crumbling slum now with boarded up windows and weed-choked yards. The lot where she lived in empty. Half an hour after we got back, she'd forgotten what we saw there.

She sorts and packs, filling up sack after sack with shoes and clothes and dolls and dishes to take with her. She roots through cupboards and drawers and chooses things for her journey - several pairs of gloves, my small pair of binoculars, a pack of new ballpoint pens from my desk, the salt and pepper shakers off the kitchen table. She's filled purses with pictures stripped from the albums and sewing supplies and paperwork of all kinds - bills (that I have to reclaim in order to pay), receipts from long ago Walmart trips, filled out order forms for various magazines for which she already has subscriptions.

She used to nap a lot before this dementia took her over. Now, she has Attention Deficit Disorder. She's busy every minute, unable to sit still long enough to even eat her dinner. She forgets she had dinner, telling my friends - "I haven't had a bite of food for three days".

I follow behind her and try to unpack as quickly as she packs. She doesn't notice but simply fills the next bag with whatever grabs her attention at the moment. She doesn't bother with matching things. She might have 5 shoes, all without mates.

I try to tell her she lives here but she thinks I'm lying for my own nefarious purposes. When asked what those might be, she has no idea. She looks herself up in the phone book - and there is her name beside this address. I show her that this address is also what is on her checks and her address labels but it doesn't convince her. She goes behind my back and calls my friends to ask if they'll come and give her a ride home.

Or, she stands in the doorway with her purse over her arm announcing, "I'm ready to go whenever you're ready to take me." At first, I argued. I was so new to this condition, I thought if I was forceful enough, I could get through to her but now I know I can't, so I just tell her that I'll take her home "tomorrow". Usually, that satisfies her but sometimes, she heads for the door saying, "if you won't drive me, I'll walk". I have to forcibly prevent her from heading down the street with her purse and her sacks.

It is like having a two-year-old again. She can no longer be left alone anymore than a toddler could be left alone. The heart-breaking difference is that you know a two-year-old is going to grow up whereas there is no future for Mom but going down. She is 93 years old and she can only deteriorate.

The worst thing about all this is that she is no longer my mother. Everyone who knew her agreed that Mom was the most giving, loving person they'd ever met. She insisting on feeding every human or animal that came to her door. My friends all called her Mom. John's friends all called her Grandma.

This new person isn't like that. She is so completely focused on her own issues that she no longer has any compassion or concern for anyone else. Used to, if she thought she hurt anyone's feelings, she'd be horrified. Now, I can cry from the frustration of dealing with her and it leaves her untouched. I can plead with her to please just accept living here with me but she's unmoved.

My father died in his sleep of a massive heart attack. He was only 63. At the time, I thought that was the saddest thing. My husband died of lung cancer at 46 after almost 2 years of pain and illness and invasive treatments. At that time, I thought that was the saddest thing. But, watching Mom totally lose her Self is the very saddest thing of all.  Everyone in her world who died is now alive again. Is wanting to go "home" another way of simply saying she has been here long enough and she's ready to let go of life? 


I will care for her here as long as I can. I don't even want to think about putting her in a nursing home. But I have reached the point of hoping that some morning soon when I go into check on her, she will have gone "home".