I went to see mom today, in her little nursing home. She was wearing a pink shirt, a polo and a few shades lighter than my own pink shirt. I couldn't find her at first. I scanned the cafeteria from the entryway, but didn't see her at her table. She wasn't in the lobby or in her room. Puzzling, as she can't walk or push her own wheelchair.

Mom had a history of escaping from her prisons. The staff at Parmer Woods would find her outside a great deal, back when she lived in an open apartment there. Once they moved her to the locked unit, she'd often wait by the door, trying to watch people use the code. Once she even got out on her own! They caught her, but I bet she was proud of herself. I was sort of proud of her, to tell the truth.

She spent a lot of time those years being very very angry and hateful, agitated and wildeyed. Once when she was living in the apartment complex near our house I came over to give her her medicines and she'd written "HELL" and "FUCK" all over all the calenders and writing pads. She'd eat nothing, walk during the day to a mini mart and buy wine. Drink. Cry and call me if she could remember how. Talk about suicide. She'd throw things at me sometimes. Barbara didn't let go easily. I often think I should take a lesson from that and just learn to give in, give up.

She got so irritated with the gate to the apartment complex, and she couldn't figure out how to use the automatic code to get in, that we presume she drove right through the gate with her car. We presume that because the gate was broken and the car had a huge scrape down the side.

I never fixed the scrape. I kind of like it. Her car, which I drive now, is full of bumps and scrapes. All of which she was responsible for.

But now, now she's as peaceable as a lamb for the most part. She smiles at people and loves to hold hands. Some of that is due to the drugs she is on. We started her on the heavy meds when she tried to bite a nurse at Parmer Woods. But much of the change is also due to the progression of the disease. She just can't get angry I think.

She can't walk, can't push her chair, is incontinent and cannot speak. And the reason I didn't see her at her table is because the staff at RNC seems to have moved her to the table where people are fed by hand.

So I found her there, sitting at a table with four others in the same state as my mother, or even worse, with a nurse feeding them, like birds, or babies, mess all about their mouths and on their laps. Most of them staring blankly.

She work pink, which looks very good on her. Her face, damp. Her eyes, permanently rheumy. She hands are starting to curl up a bit. We sat and I talked and when I mentioned Owen's 10th, she smiled. It is very, very hard to know what is, or could be, going on in her brain.

What do I look like? Am I a slide-show? Do I exist only in that moment? Is her object permanence gone? Does she miss me? Is she sad? I hope she isn't sad.

It should be a grace, I suppose, that she is calm, but being with her feels like surveying the clear cool skies over homes broken and wrecked after a cyclone.


  1. That's some damn fine writing. Made me a bit misty eyed.

  2. Thank you, Gerry. That means a great deal.

  3. I would often wonder the same thing when I was feeding and otherwise caring for Myrtle. During the course of my care, I learned to hold very still when asking her any question (Are you full? Do you need to pee? Are you through? Do you want to go to bed? etc.) because she would mimic my percieved movements. If I nodded, she'd nod. If I turned my head away, she'd mimic a headshake. She's do the same thing with smiles or frowns.

    I always smiled when I told her I loved her.

  4. I know you know about my grandmother (Nana) who died of Alzheimer's. What you may not know is that she was essentially my mother for the first eight years of my life.

    Many times over the last 15 years or so, I've wished that she had gotten sick when I was older so that I could've taken better care of her. So that I could've had some say in her treatment. I used to like to fantasize that the end of her life would have been drastically different had I been in charge and not just a scared, helpless little girl whose family kept her largely in the dark about what was happening to the person she loved most in the whole world.

    Reading your stories about your mom, though, gives me a completely different perspective. It's hard to articulate - in some ways, I still wish I could have taken care of Nana, but in other ways, I realize what a blessing it was that I couldn't and didn't have to. In another, very selfish way, I feel like I'm getting to see what it might've been like for me to be Nana's primary caregiver.

    You're a strong woman, Julie, and I have the highest respect and admiration for the way you're handling your mother's illness. Blessed be, sweet lady.


Post a Comment