Written in 2007
Oh, my mother.
Such a very sad conversation we’ve just had. This disease has three faces, so far as I can tell. The first is of Barbara herself, social and charming, together and managing reasonably well, but kind of dotty. We see her about a quarter of the time. Sometimes its a full week. Some times its a day per week.
Second, there is the angry ghost who is irrational and angry and mean and generally very difficult to deal with. She’s around about two weeks out of the month.
Today, I saw the rare third face, the scared child, wanting me to mother her, aware of her limitations and condition. She did something today that was potentially dangerous, then forgot completely about it. When we spoke this afternoon, she accepted that she did what I said, and then became upset, but not angry.
Oh, she said. I shouldn’t drive the car. Oh, how is this happening? People like this wind up in nursing homes. Should I be in a nursing home? Does the doctor know I’m losing my memory?
Yes, mama we need to have you stop driving and yes, we should look at a place for you to live that’s better for you, safer. The doctor knows and he’ll help us.
I’m to see her tonight, but I don’t think she’ll remember this rare conversation, her clarity not of her surroundings, but of her situation.
The process has begun and we will be moving her to an assisted living facility in the near future, one with an Alzheimer’s wing.
I quite honestly never thought I’d be in the position to place my mother in a nursing home. Its something that, as a younger person, always seemed like a kind of near sin, placing someone away. Then again I never thought I’d have kids in child care, but I do and they enjoy it. Of course they are growing and thriving and learning.
She, however, is diminishing-her mind eroding like stone under water. Her needs are such that she will not be safe living by herself. She wouldn’t be safe living with us unless I was at home full time and even then, there would come a point in this disease where we ourselves might not be safe with her in the house.
I have hated facing this, been in a kind of denial, not wanting to accept that she is, in essence, gone, but not truly gone. She is danger to herself and I must do these abhorrent things, make her cry, take her keys, cause emotional pain to her because that ultimately will keep her safer than if I left her alone.
I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.