As I set about the mindless task of changing my bed linens, I had a sudden urge to call Mom. Not Mom at Potomac, but independent Mom in Florida. Back in the days following my father’s demise, I would call my mother at least once a week to check on her. She would often conclude our calls by saying how much she enjoyed our “visits.” It gave her particular pleasure when I called her; she felt no sense of “intruding” on me, and was happy that I elected to call her. She always preferred it that way. Mom was never much for reaching out, but enjoyed being reached.
This phenomenon occurred with my father, too. I began mourning his loss acutely the year before he actually passed away. I spent a great deal of time navigating his deterioration. I’d had a unique relationship with him. He liked and respected me as an adult. I valued his point of view. I loved sharing events of my life with him. His interest in computers, which he pursued in his 70’s, allowed us to form a new and different bond. He was one of my most entertaining and motivated students. His sense of humor and desire to help us through difficult times can’t be overstated. When he started losing his mind, it was devastating for all of us. Even while he was in the throes of vascular dementia, the impulse to call the old Herby would hit me, and I would realize the futility of my wish. Seven years after his physical death, I still miss him. I continue to converse with him in my mind, trying to conjure what his response would be to a particular situation.
Recently I revisited and published a post from last December which I had titled “It’s not a linear path.” This was right after Mom’s first clear psychotic break, where she had been hallucinating and had a sudden, profound loss of ability to accomplish the most basic activities of daily living. In time, many of her abilities returned, and she was able to recognize the hallucinations for what they were. Her physical strength was not good, but her vitals were acceptable. She had good days and bad days. Eventually, her poor balance and falls made it clear that she needed more care than I could provide in my home, even with hired help.
It really isn’t a linear path. That’s a large part of what makes this so difficult. Humans are so complex. The condition of our brains plays such a profound role in who we are from day to day, moment to moment. I have placed my mother in a facility equipped to deal with her condition as it changes. Their goal is to help her stay as high-functioning, and on as few drugs as possible. It seems they are managing her well, but in her state of mind, my mother doesn’t appreciate it. And there’s the rub. The better they care for her, the better she feels and the less acceptable she finds it to be where she is.
In time, Mom’s condition will worsen. It’s inevitable. Eventually, she probably won’t care where she is as her psychosis and dementia take over. I don’t look forward to the time when she no longer knows me, but I accept it as a likely part of the process. I want to see her while she’s still able to relate to me, but I dread her complaints and requests to be moved someplace else. The longer she stays put, the better she will acclimate and hopefully, become more accepting. She’s safe. She’s functioning. She is making friends. And I’m able to care for myself, my husband, my business, my pets and other obligations with a clearer head. In time, the urge to connect with independent, lucid Mom will probably fade, too. I’m starting to miss her already.