Got talking with the other members of my support group. The general consensus is that caretaking is lonely business. Despite assurances from family, they often aren’t available. Some of their excuses are legitimate, but sometimes it’s obviously bullshit. Too often it feels to the caretaker like “I have better things to do.” Some hear “I don’t want to see him/her like this; I want to remember them as they were.” A personal favorite is “He/She doesn’t remember me anymore, so what’s the point?” <snort> This isn’t about YOU, dip-shit. It’s about THEM. And YOU ought to remember who THEY are because, honestly, there’s no telling what an Alzheimer’s patient knows inside the privacy of their head. They may very well know you, but not be able to say your name because their brain won’t let the right sounds come out on command.
My mother astonishes the staff at the nursing home with surprising regularity. Just at the moment when they believe that all memories are gone, she’ll rally and deliver. The other day they were bringing her out of lunch, three-quarters asleep in her chair, and someone said, “Ginny, Cory is here.” Without opening her eyes, my mother responded clearly, “The dog?” (This is the Hospice dog/owner team who visits her weekly.) No reason why her ravaged brain would deliver that up, but it did.
The past few visits have been particularly painful. What little conversation she’s been capable of has been gibberish that clearly makes sense to her, but means nothing to me. She spends most of the time with her eyes closed and complains of being tired all the time. She has not known me for some while and, in fact, was quite astonished when I told her she was my mother. “You’re joking!” she said.
Today, she was wide awake when I arrived. She still did not seem to know me and appeared disinclined for much of a visit. I took her into the lounge anyway, just for a few minutes. We talked a bit, I got her a pillow so she could rest her head back and sleep if she chose. Our little bits of conversation were mostly nonsensical. I wept.
When it came time to leave, I pushed her wheelchair back out near the nurses station. As I bent down to give her a kiss, she said, “I’m going home tonight.” Does she know how much I pray that is so? I replied, “Well, when you get there, tell everyone I said hello.” She said she would. I turned to leave and had taken two steps when she very clearly said, “I love you very much.” Needless to say, I turned right back around and gave her a long, long hug. “I love you, too, Mom.”
I love you, too.