momometer

Busy moms, life in general

Memories or lack thereof

on May 23, 2012

This post is something that has been on my mind for awhile. It is something I try not to think about, but nights like last night, it comes to my mind and I can’t shake it. It makes for a bad night’s sleep. It is dementia. I have a loved one suffering from this disease, someone to whom I am very close and it rips my heart out to see her this way. She sees me as a daughter, and used to tell me so every time we spoke or saw each other. Now when I see her, she repeats herself, an endless loop of one¬†discussion. Sometimes, like a few weeks ago, she has barely gotten the words from her mouth before she repeats them again. Other days she appears more lucid and will remember something from a few minutes before. She doesn’t remember the past. It’s like I am the keeper of memories now. “Hey remember x?” “No. Was I there?” I tell the tale and she’ll laugh, but she is no longer able to reminisce with me. Gone are the tales she would tell with such enthusiasm, things from her past she would share, wisdom from generations before passed down. Gone. One of the worst parts is, she knows she forgets and it upsets her. In the early days, she seemed a little scattered. As time passed, she forgot stories and places, how to get from one place to another. She could no longer drive. Now, she remembers my oldest 2, sometimes 3 children, but doesn’t know my 2 youngest. She remembers my ex-husband, sometimes remembering I am divorced and remarried, other times not. The kids are fantastic with her and never show their annoyance at being asked 20 or so times per visit how old they are, what grade they are in and with which parent they live. I used to see her almost daily when I “lived in town”. When I moved, it was still at least weekly, with daily calls. Then it became less and less frequent. I feel enormous guilt at this, she needs me more now, but because of my selfish need to distance myself, because seeing her makes me so sad, I don’t go or call as often. She has her kids and others who check in on her and take care of her shopping I tell myself, knowing it is an excuse to make myself feel better. She doesn’t call me anymore, but when I call, she always says she misses me and when am I coming to town?

When my oldest 2 children were little, she and I would go for long walks with the kids in the stroller. We’d stop at a store and get ice cream or popsicles, she knew all my secrets, hopes and dreams. She told me stories of family members, of what it was like raising children in her era. I cherish those memories, because now they are gone. The vibrant woman whose social calendar was far busier than mine now sits alone in her home watching tv. I don’t know if she remembers her friends or not. She jokes when I call her “I think I know who this is. Are you in town? When will you be in town? I don’t know if I’ll remember you when I see you.” I know she is joking because she fears that it will be true. She looks so frail to me now. She’s lost lots of weight, and has aged considerably in the past few years. Her spirit seems dimmed somehow. I miss and long for the long, in depth conversations we once shared. Her advice was always invaluable to me and she was often my first call. Now when faced with something, I don’t know who to turn to and the advice is never the same as hers would have been.

When I was little, she took us on day trips to the beach. She loved the ocean as much as I did and never made me get out of the water or dragged me someplace I didn’t want to go. Now when I go to the beach, especially if my brother comes, we pack a “classic” meal that she used to pack, egg salad sandwiches, fig newtons and bananas. Of course, we have to pack other things for the kids, but for us, those three things have become beach staples. I try to make memories for my children and share the memories she once shared with me, stories of myself, my father, my family, knowing one day, they could be gone forever. The one solace I have is, she knows I love her. We don’t say it often because we don’t need to, but she’s told me she knows and she loves me too. That’s all that matters.

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