My original intent of this blog was to follow the timeline of my life as a caregiver but we know that plan went to hell in a hand basket. But isn’t that just like dementia and Alzheimer’s? You never know what is going to happen from day to day and you just have to deal with it as it comes at you; plans will get screwed up! Today I am dreading next week not because of something that is actually coming up but more so because of an anniversary that is coming that always brings tears to my eyes. It’s been 10 years now but it still gives me a kick in the gut each year. Will share with you next week about this…
But what happened today was that as I was working away at my desk I paused to let my poor tired eyes rest and I turned to look at the cork board I have on the wall next to me which is filled with a potpourri of items – notes, greeting cards, old work ID badges, a movie ticket stub (why is that one there by the way???), a ten dollar bill I found once in a mud puddle and photos. There are photos of the kids, the grandchild, me and the spouse, me and my father and one of mom walking down the hallway with a smile on her face in the locked Alzheimer’s unit of her first nursing home.
I came to really hate that place but that’s another story for another day. What scared me was that with all of those photos up there the ones of mom and dad had the opposite effect on me. I look at the one of me and dad in his wheelchair and I get misty eyed and miss him but the one of mom? I find myself staring at the photo and trying to connect some how and all I feel is this lost and disconnected feeling; almost as if she is a stranger or at best a distant relative. And that is scary! Dad passed away 10 years ago but mom passed 5 years ago. So why do I feel more connected to him than her? That robbing bastard Alzheimer’s!
Up until he took a turn for the worse, I could still talk to my father even if it was in short sentences and he still knew who I was. But I dropped off mom’s radar some 14+ years ago. She was always mom – nothing could ever change that – but the reality was that she was just this little old lady with Alzheimer’s that I was taking care of and took care of for many many years. Somewhere in there that mother daughter relationship took a up in the nosebleed section back seat to the caregiver/dementia patient relationship; that is if you could even call it a relationship because there was no give and take, there were no conversations (she went into word salad mode very early in the disease), and there was no recognition from her side of the fence of anything other than basic feelings and emotions. She smiled at things we couldn’t figure out what the hell she was smiling about. She smiled when you gave her chocolate to eat and she would yell and once in a while curse if you touched or grabbed her the wrong way and let’s not talk about the commotion when it was time to do any lab work. If you didn’t watch out she could punch you pretty good.
But even with all of these memories I still look at her picture or think about her sometimes and feel this lost emptiness, a failure to “feel” her. My mother left me a long time ago and I don’t seem to be able to find her…and that’s scary.