Last week I spent some time in Ohio and of course the main reason was to go see my mom. I just had to make a trip before Aaron and Erin’s wedding on September 21st and see her. Something just kept sticking in my mind that I needed to make that happen so with encouragement from Mr. Diamond I made the trip. Sometimes I just have to listen to that inner voice that nudges me and I am so glad I did.
When I visit my mom at her Memory Lane room in Copeland Oaks I never know what I will find. This time I found her to be in pretty good spirits and happy to have company even if she wasn’t really sure who I was. I know that that sounds really difficult but it really is getting easier at times to accept that this is where she is at mentally. Her memory has gotten even worse since my last visit about 6 weeks ago and she would ask a question and a minute later ask the exact same question.
I had taken a couple of framed pictures for her room. One was of my dad and one was of the two of them that was taken in 1993 the year before he died. She has photo albums and other pictures on her walls but I thought it might be nice for her to have a small picture that she could see easily on her dresser. When I gave her the picture of Daddy she stroked the frame, studied it a long time and questioned me as to who it was. When I told her it was Paul, her husband, she responded “I thought so”.
We talked a little bit about his name really being Walter Paul but that he went by Paul and she asked three more times what his name was. Then she repeated “Paul, Paul, Paul” about ten times and said she just couldn’t understand why she could not remember it. Then she looked at me with a sweet look on her face and said “He was a good one, wasn’t he?”. To which I responded “Yes–he was a really good one”. So she knew. She remembered. And in that moment that is all that mattered.
I must admit that after this trip and my 3 separate visits with her I keep asking myself why dementia is taking my mom away from me and how that fits into the whole plan of things. It is heartbreaking to hear her ask if she can “get out of here” and go someplace “down there” . I still have not figured out where “down there” is but I did manage to get her to understand in that moment that she had made the decision a long time ago to be in this place where they have all the things that she needs. She is sad that her life is not what she thought it would be and I am sad as well. But I am so glad that I still have her with me. Even if I have to answer the same question twenty times in 20 minutes it makes no difference. She still gives me the best hugs and in those moments I know she knows me.
One of my good friends, Virginia, who has been my rock through these times of navigating the dementia journey lost her own mom the last part of August after years and years of seeing her mom slip away to the disease. She was the devoted daughter and I have always held her up as the best caregiver and daughter there could be. Her grace and her love of her mother have been such an example to me over the years and I grieve her loss of her mother as well. But what a privilege we have to be the daughters of these strong women who have raised us and who have allowed us to return just a small portion of what they provided for us over the years. I count that as joy.
What do I expect to find the next time I visit my mom? I honestly do not know but I do know that while she may not always know me I know her and I will continue to love her and do all in my power to make our visits something special.
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