...I don't hear that word much these days, and it does have a sort-of medicinal flavor to it, but it nicely describes our days lately. And even the telling of Mom about her brother. We sat in the sunshine on the sofa, my husband on one side of Mom and me on the other. I held her hand and gently told her we had some sad news and then I told her right away, as I sensed her immediate dread, that her brother had been very sick and then died a few days ago.
She sat so still, for what seemed like such a long time, but was only a long moment or two...then she asked why he had to die. She asked this a few times, and we told her that he had been very ill. And there were more long moments of quiet and Mom staring straight ahead. And sometimes a question or worry that she hadn't talked to him or been in touch for a long time. I filled the quiet emptiness (oh! those moments when I don't know what my mom is thinking and possibly suffering are such hard ones) with reassurances that she had, indeed, kept in touch with him, and talked with him on the phone and that we had even visited last year. Of course, Mom can't remember any of this, so it felt really important to tell her about the phone calls and the trip as many times as it took to sink in...until she could feel that she hadn't neglected him.
At some point, at last, just a tear or two fell slowly down Mom's cheeks...and she was able to look at us and feel our hands holding hers. After a hug or two, I asked her if she would like to see the photos from our trip last August to Colorado Springs. She said yes, right away, and we looked at those on the laptop, as we continued to sit in the sunshine. We didn't look for long, because looking at photos of occasions Mom was a part of, but can't remember, usually sets up an unspoken tension. She sees photos of herself, there are people she loves there in the photo, yet she can't remember the occasion at all and it is very confusing to her. So we looked just enough to reassure...then I suggested a walk.
Mom was still very quiet outside, tho' I could tell it felt good to her to be out-of-doors and not still sitting on the sofa trying to figure out what to say and do. So we just walked arm-in-arm, at the edge of the hayfields...then I was surprised when she asked "How is Ann, I wonder?". Ann is my aunt, her sister-in-law, my uncle's wife...who, unbeknownst to my mom, has also been diagnosed with dementia. I was so touched that Mom remembered her and expressed concern. It is rather rare for her to make those connections these days. I was glad to be able to tell her truthfully that Ann was peaceful about it all and safe and fairly happy in her new apartment in an assisted-living place.
And that was it. Mom napped soon after our walk and hasn't brought up her brother since then, except once to remark that she hadn't seen her brother or her parents for a long time. But this is a fairly common thing for Mom to say, and we have learned to answer vaguely that "we haven't seen them recently, either" and to quickly get her interested in something else. And then a week or so ago my brother came to take my mom to her beach house so that we had some respite here. That was a super restful and lovely week for my husband and I, and we feel very peaceful as we get back into the swing of caregiving.
It has been almost two years now, since Mom came to live with us full-time. There were many hard months, getting used to living with the changes-both in Mom and in our lives-but we seem to be in a tranquil place now....seem to be accepting that this our life now, and there is much goodness in it. I am finding a rhythm, finally, that takes care of Mom and me and our home and my family and some of my dreams and hopes, too. We are so thankful for it all. When my brother and I were saying good-bye to each other at the airport, Mom safely and cosily napping at home with my husband near by, he asked me how I get things done...how I mentally handle the constant not-knowing if Mom will wake up at night or during her nap, if she will be confused or clear each day (each hour)...oh, I can't really list all the not-knowing things there are in a day with Mom...and I realized how far we have come in the past two years in learning to accept and cope. My very short answer to him was that I always keep in mind how good we have it, as far as Alzheimer's goes...Mom isn't following me around all day, asking questions...she doesn't get angry or so anxious I can't soothe her...she is mostly happy and cooperative. I am making the most of these days, which may end up, when I look back, as the easy days.
I have a long answer, too, to my brother's question, which shall be another post. Until then, I am wishing for many more moments and hours and days of peace for us all.