Been combating a head cold this week, arriving just in time for Thanksgiving, although my hope is to have it beat by them. Also been dealing with the cancer diagnosis of a long-time friend, a woman I’ve known since we were both nine years old. With luck, it’ll all prove routine — in, out, done — but the emotional roller coaster has been interesting (and I’ve only been in the passenger seat. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s felt like from her side). Plus, you know, there’s the daily stress of living with someone with dementia and trying to keep “normal” things in life together. And write. Oh, yeah. Write.
I’d even thought seriously about ending this blog. I’m still thinking about it, but it’s interesting that the very day I decided, “That’s it. I’m going to finish it,” I got an email from a woman in the Midwest telling me how much she enjoys it. So…maybe I’ll keep at it a little while longer. Amazing what some reader praise or encouragement can do for a writer. (And speaking to that, you guys have been terrific in that regard.)
Anyway, I was on the couch trying to catch maybe an hour’s nap (colds have a way of making me pass out even without medication), and this little noise began to intrude on my not-so-deep slumber. shuffle-shuffle-shuffle….shuffle-shuffle-shuffle…shuffle-shuffle-shuffle… Around the living room, up the stairs, around the entire second floor, back down the stairs, into the kitchen, back to the living room. Mom on the move.
I opened my eyes and sat up. Mom was standing looking out the sliders into the backyard. “What’s up, Mom?”
“Where is everyone?” (This is a routine question. For some reason, she thinks there’s a crowd of people here just out of sight. I dunno…maybe there is. Maybe the ghosts have begun to draw near.)
“We’re the only one’s here, Mom.”
“But we have to leave before dark. We have to get home.”
“This is your home, Mom.”
Confusion. “No, it’s not. I could never afford a place like this.”
“No, Mom. I meant that it’s my and Ed’s house, but you live here now.”
“You’ve lived here for almost two months.”
She dropped down onto the couch and placed a hand to her head. “Don’t tell me that! It makes me even more confused. How could I live here two months and not know it?”
“I don’t know, Mom.” We’ve talked about her diagnosis, but what’s the use in belaboring the point? She’ll only forget again.
“Where’s Bumps?” That’s my dad, a nickname he picked up from his mother.
“Dad died, Mom.”
“Oh. Oh, that’s right. I remember that.” She went on to ask several questions about her family — her birth family, she means, the brothers and sisters she grew up with, all of whom died many years ago but for her younger brother (and her favorite), my Uncle Paul. She does this a lot, asking if they’re all dead, when they died, what they died of, where they are buried. She asks about her mother, too, and sometimes her beloved step-father. She also asks often about her age. If I ask her to guess, most of the time she’s spot on.
All of a sudden she sat forward, very earnest, and said, “Did I have a funeral?”
It was one of those moments where your brain stutters a wee bit. “You’re not dead, Mom.”
“Oh. I guess I’m not, am I?”
“Are you thinking of Dad’s funeral?”
She shook her head. “No, I remember that. I remember being at his bedside when he died.” She wasn’t, but there’s no kindness in telling her otherwise. “I’m going to be buried with him.”
“Okay.” And two hours later, she was right as rain with no memory of this conversation.
This is how our days go and I hope the powers of the universe can forgive me if I occasionally run mad for a few minutes. I get frustrated. Angry. I lose patience and sometimes (rarely, but sometimes) snap. I’m tired. I’m trying to see every angle before it is exposed, see every curve we’re headed down and learn to lean into it, be watchful of every bump and pothole, and somehow (I hope) land on my feet when all is done.