OK, I know there’s this typical stereotype about the computer geek living at home with his mother, and no, that’s not what this is about. As a matter of fact, it’s not even my mom, but my mother in law.
A year ago, my wife Gini’s mom moved in with us. She has some minor dementia issues that vary in intensity, which I write about here from time to time. You’ve heard the term “bitter-sweet” in references to stories that are sad and sweet at the same time. I consider these things with my mother in law to be “funny-sad” in that you have to find what humor you can in such a sad sad situation. When I post about these on Facebook, I use the run-on tag #EveryDaysAnAdventure, because Betty tends to make it so.
I had a weekend recently that really got me thinking. Betty knocked on my bedroom door, and said that she had two people waiting with her, that she had gone upstairs for a few minutes, and when she came down, they were gone. We live in a single story home, so I knew she was confused. I let her know they hadn’t abandoned her, that they were here. My wife (her daughter) was in our bathroom getting ready for church, and our granddaughter was in the other bathroom doing the same. This was not a “big” deal, but it indicated she wasn’t having one of her best days.
Later that evening, she was upset with my wife, because she wouldn’t “take her to her house” (the house she lived in 1800 miles away, and occupied by someone else now). She refused to go to church with her, and then later that evening, asked me if I would take her to her house. I explained why that couldn’t happen, and she said she was worried her daughter Linda didn’t know where she was. Of course Linda knew, but I offered to let betty call and talk to her, to reassure her. After she got off the phone, a little more clarity came, and she was fine; at least until next time.
As I thought about it all later last night, it occurred to me. These things she does are definitely a hassle. We’ve found hand tools stored in the refrigerator, bowls of milk stored in her dresser drawer (unfortunately alerted to it by the smell), and we automatically go to her purse if we’re missing a remote because it happens so often.
So, the insight I had – as frustrating as those things my seem to me and my wife, they pale in comparison to what this poor dear sweet (most of the time) lady is going through. Imagine one day, you’re sitting in a chair, and “realize” you’re not in your home, and you only vaguely recognize the people around you. You step out the door and look outside, and nothing looks familiar; including even the weather. Now you have to somehow convince these “strangers” around you, who very well may have been responsible for you being there, to help you get back “home”.
I’ve had instances where I’ve awakened from an intense dream, and found myself unable to figure out where I was and how I got there. I’m sure we’ve all had dreams like that. Fortunately, in a few seconds the fog clears, and whatever brain-movie we were starring in faded and we realized we’re home.
I’ve compared dementia, and Betty’s plight, to having that sort of dream, but the fog taking days or weeks to clear. I can’t imagine the hurt and despair that causes her.
My problems are simple, and solvable in comparison.
Note to my daughters – brace yourselves, I’ll be there someday
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