It happened today. I know it won’t be the last time,and eventually there will be no going back from it. My mom didn’t recognize me on our weekly video call. She stared blankly at me when I said “Hi Mom.” I waited for the awareness to come to her eyes. It didn’t. The activity director, Jen, lovingly told her “It’s Mary.” Slowly I could see her coming back to me. But those few moments were and are heartbreaking.
Mom has been in a memory care facility for dementia for 2 years. With 1 year being during this pandemic. So the majority of my time with her is via video phone calls. While her recognition and memory of other relatives has faded, for the most part she has been able to remember her children. Until recently, I have noticed her mixing us up or thinking my brother is my father. So today was hard. But I knew it was coming eventually. When we talk, mom will fixate on one thing or time frame. With me it is 3 different events in my life between 25 and 35 years ago. When I was Jr Miss in 1987, when I took state boards to become a hairdresser, and when I had my twins. These 3 themes are on replay and repeat. But I do not care. I am happy to go back there with her. I sent her a photo of me with my Jr Miss sash on from 1987, and she has misplaced it( because I moved it from where she had it and now she can’t find it.) so every phone call, she asks about it. “Weren’t you “….. and her voice trails off, as I fill in the blanks, “Jr Miss” I say. And she is transported back there. The light comes back in her eyes. Or when she asks “didn’t you cut my hair?” I know she is referring to being my model for State boards. When we are chatting and one of her friends enters the area she will say “this is my daughter, she had twins.” These must be moments, memories embedded in her brain about me. I know she has these moments with my siblings too. We will meet her wherever she is. For as long as we can. But it doesn’t make it any easier.
There is this horrible meme that floats around Facebook, that people share thinking it is funny. You know the one…” Keep it up mom or I will put in Shady Pines Nursing home”…. or something along those lines. Listen, I am Not easily offended. I have all sons. But, when I see people so carelessly throwing that around it feels like a knife in the heart. Because when you are actually faced with that decision, there is absolutely Nothing funny about it. It tears you and your siblings apart. When the Dr. says ” Your mom can not come home anymore.” trust me, no one is laughing. I have already had this talk with my sons. That when that time comes, if it does, that I understand. That the mom I am now is telling them, it is ok, that I know how hard that decision is, but that I know it is made in love. The mom I will be then may yell at them, and cry and not understand, but the mom I am now does. And people will make comments not meaning to hurt, like, “I won’t ever do that,” or ” My mom will just stay with me.” Trust me, easier said than done. My siblings and I tried for years to keep my parents in their home. We did everything we could. And it killed us to have to sell their home, and place them in a facility. You don’t ever get over it or forgive yourself. I want my sons to know they have no reason to ever feel it. Furthermore, we have been absolutely Blessed with mom’s memory facility and team of caregivers. They have had to be her family this past year. They have stepped up gone above and beyond what their job description is. We are forever grateful to each one of them.
When we were about to hang up I said to mom ” I miss you mom.” She turned her head and looked off into the distance and quietly said, ” I think I miss you as long as you are.” I know it is a jumbled up sentence, that may not make sense, but to me, it has two meanings. I knew she was trying to tell me that she misses me a lot. That it has been a long time since we have all been together. I knew what she meant. But for me, that one sentence, “I miss you as long as you are.” summed up all I have felt since she has been living with dementia. I miss my mom, who she was, what she was, what we did together. I miss my daily phone calls to her, my visits with her at home. I remember after having my oldest son, I would walk over to her house, with him in a stroller. My mom and I would walk 3 miles everyday, and talk and solve all the worlds problems.I miss that. I miss going to lunch with her and my sisters, or going to plays, or baking cookies. You see, I have been slowly, grieving my mom for 2 years. It is a long goodbye. One day, maybe soon, she won’t remember me at all, or what I meant to her. But I will remember her. I will miss you as long as you are, Mom, and even after that.
April 11, 2021 at 5:03 pm
This heartfelt, artfully-composed piece about your lovely mom struck many familiar chords for me. My mom passed away in 2017 at the age of 78. (My mom, Mrs. Janz, was the secretary at GMS for years but would have been in the district office by the time you came through, I think). Her Alzheimer’s Disease journey lasted 10 years with the last 2 years in a memory care facility. My dad, who is going strong at 86, cared for her at home as long as he could. I was Judy’s classmate, and based on your 1987 Junior Miss title, we didn’t cross paths back then, but I’m so glad Judy posted this. I’m looking forward to reading your beautiful perspectives on “bumpy” family life. Thanks for sharing your gift.
September 14, 2021 at 4:39 pm
I just saw this, thank you so very much for your kind words.