Sunday, December 11

"I'm not a kid"

This is what Mom said to me ten minutes ago or so. I was uploading photos to my computer in the kitchen, keeping an eye on Mom with the monitor as she changed into pajamas at bedtime. She almost always forgets to take off her underwear before putting on the pajama bottoms, so if I see she is forgetting, I dash to her bedroom and gently remind her (with just a few words and some motions-it is sometimes hard for her to understand words) to take off the underwear. Those were her words in response. It was very hard to receive those words and I immediately told her I didn't mean to treat her like a kid, that she just forgot things sometimes and I was reminding her. Then she told me, falteringly, that she thought I was telling her she couldn't put on the pajamas. So we got clear on that, she continued with her dressing and undressing and I went quickly back to the kitchen, fighting back tears. 

This is so hard.

Mom needs so much help these days, tho' I am still allowing/encouraging/facilitating her doing as much of it as possible for herself. Without my cuing and showing, she does nothing and sits or wanders in a confused fog. So I must do it, but I know that it must grate on her sometimes, even tho' it is probably below her awareness most of the time. Helping her more means she might forget how to do things even sooner, and I look for anything she can do to use her muscles and exert herself, even in the pulling of  shirt over her head...she wants to move so little most days. And then I think, to do more for her is treating her even more like a child...but that is being logical, and there is nothing logical about this.

In the kitchen again, I am looking at the photos I've taken today...beautiful light through the pinecone wreath on the front door, the first really frosty morning, clove-studded clementines. I glance at the monitor again and see that Mom is in the bathroom looking in the cupboard for something, then I see that she is reaching for the toothpaste tube (tho' she brushed her teeth just a short while ago). I dash back to her room and find her with toothpaste on her mouth like white lipstick. I quickly wipe it off with a wet washcloth and look for her lipstick in its usual place....not there. I begin to look for it and encourage her to take off her shirt and get in her pajama top, which she does without comment. I look in the usual hiding places but don't find I put away the clothes she has taken off (in the hopes that keeping her room tidy will make her less likely to putter around it in the night) and the lipstick drops out of the pocket of her sweater. By this time, Mom is in her pjs and I happily show her the lipstick and she goes back into the bathroom and puts some on. Then she almost runs to bed (unusual) and I tuck her in...she asks me a question I can't understand, but I answer in a vague fashion that seems to suffice. She asks if I will come and sleep with her and I jokingly tell her that Doug would miss me and offer her little yarn cat, which surprises and pleases her. 

As I type this, I see in the dim monitor that her light is out she is fast asleep...for now. She won't remember tonight, and I have to figure out how to remember it and meet it again...and again..and again in the days and years to come. For now, I will breathe deeply, go back to looking at today's photos, turn up my music *loud* and keep seeking beauty and happiness in the little moments. I'm sure they will outweigh these others if I work hard at at.


Anonymous said...

It is hard to go with the flow, when the stream swirls and eddies so, but thankfully there are quiet moments when the water calms. May this night be calm for you. {gentle hug}

maryanne said...

Lesley, I do feel for you. Such a sad, cruel illness. There and yet not there: the slow retreat of a familiar and loved personality into a confusing and fragile place where no one can follow. This is the feeling I have of dementia, from your writing, and from the little I know from others' experiences. Please feel even a little supported by those of us who witness the path you're travelling, and the sadness, bravery and compassion that you show. God bless you and your mother this Christmas, and always..

kkkkaty said...

I love how you describe your mother's and your relationship and the progress of her illness...your blog continues to be touching and the photos peaceful and the curtain idea, too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lesley!

Nice to "hear" from you. I was captivated by the underwear story because my family went to bed this way too (no undies). Maybe it's a northern thing about keeping warm, but I have yet to meet anyone in the last decade who sleeps that way anymore (or will admit to it). Some people seem shocked by the idea. Is this a southern gal thing? (My maternal roots are in the south.)

That silly little tangent is all I have to contribute today, though I enjoyed your last two posts for more reasons than that!

Seems like you're really getting a workout at home and are handling it gracefully.

Take care,

Lynn said...

Thinking of you, dear Lesley. It all sounds so, so familiar.

And that is a beautiful photograph.

Much love.

Anonymous said...

Finally catching up. I'm so sorry about your uncle, and I really like the way you handled it with your mom. And I hope she has forgotten all about the sadness, and only remembers that she has a brother, and why hasn't she seen him in awhile?

I like the way you describe the events with your mom. You have a calming effect on me. Even things that might irritate or sadden you are described with such grace. I think she is lucky. And I know what you mean about being aware of the possibilities that circumstances could be worse. I count myself lucky quite often - the disease is terrible, but based on what I hear from others, I know my mom could feel much worse and I could feel much worse. I feel lucky that she is content, and also lucky that over time, I have developed an entirely new kind of affection for her, which is good for my soul.
Take care,