Mom and I at Christmas
From my journal dated 7/3/05
Mom doesn’t know me at all today. She’s tolerating me like a house guest . . . barely. When she got dressed this morning, she put on long johns and underwear. When I suggested that she put on some pants or shorts, she asked me, “Why? What difference does it make?”
“We don’t wear long johns in the summer,” I replied.
“Why do you care?” she asks.
“I just don’t want you to be too hot. It’s so hot outside.”
“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.”
“Okay,” I say.
Dad comes in to talk to her. I walk away but linger in the other room to listen to their conversation. Mom says, “Leave me alone. Don’t bother me, and tell that girl to stop telling me what to do. She deeps coming in here and checking on me every five minutes. I’m going to leave if she doesn’t stop it.”
“That girl is your daughter, and she’s just trying to help,” says Dad.
“No she’s not. And I don’t need her help.”
I bite my lip and walk away. I hurts so much inside to hear her talk this way. My dad says not to take it personally. It’s just mom’s illness. I know that intellectually, but it’s too soon for me not to care, not to feel sad and hurt and emotional about being the stranger that Mom doesn’t want in her home.
From my journal dated 7/14/05
Mom is sitting next to me at the table on the porch. She’s sorting flower heads and seed pods into beautiful little rows and clusters. We sit a while. I’m reading. She looks at me and says, “Do you know Karen?”
“Why, yes I do. I’m Karen.”
“You are?” she asks, amazed. “No, I mean the other one.”
“You mean your daughter, Karen?” I ask.
“Yes. Do you know her?”
“Yes, I know her. I am her. I am Karen. Don’t we look alike?”
“Well, yes, you do,” she says smiling.
“You’re my mother. And I’m your daugher, Karen.”
“Oh, I am so sorry. I’m so embarrassed. How can I not know my own daughter?” she wonders.
This is what I’ve discovered since that day. Bad days come and go; she’ll know who I am one moment and not know me the next. It’s hard to believe, but the pain of her not remembering me lessens with time. I just try to enjoy each of those precious moments when I’m her daughter again and don’t dwell on the times when I’m not.
I don’t try to convince her who I am any more because it’s not productive. If she thinks that I’m someone else, I just talk to her as though I really am that person. If she thinks I’m her sister or a different daughter, I just go along with it because I don’t want her to feel bad about not knowing. If she thinks that her sister Louise is still alive and talks about her as though she is, I swim with her memory.
And I don’t tell my dad how it hurts anymore. I write about it, and I talk to my sisters and husband instead. My dad is dealing with it too, and it just adds to his stress and heartache when he knows how this whole thing is affecting me. Can you imagine . . . for a time Mom slept in the recliner in the living room because she said it was wrong to sleep with “that strange man.”
They’ll be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in March.