I have been waking up really early in the morning and not being able to return to restful sleep. This morning, it was 4:45. (It has been as early as 3am!) I normally wait until at least 5 am to actually get up. Once I wake up, my mind turns on and it is useless trying to go back to sleep. This morning, my thoughts went to my mother and this blog so I may as well put those thoughts to paper.
My mother has declined to the point of not speaking – or at least not much. In recent months, she has been repeating back whatever she hears – although not always. If you ask her how she is – she will say, “I’m good”. It takes her a minute to respond but she will respond. She doesn’t recognize anyone though – not really. And now, even if I tell her who I am, there is no recognition of the name or my status as her daughter.
It has been difficult to visit her at the memory care facility, with a one-sided conversation and no feedback or reaction. She lies in her bed most of the day unless she is hungry, then she will wander down the hall to the kitchen area. Some days, she will be sitting in her chair just staring or dozing. She has lost a lot of weight and is getting pretty thin. If she were her old self, she would be thrilled. She struggled with her weight all of her life.
I try to remember the last time we were able to have a real conversation. I can’t pull up a specific time or date – she used to call a couple times a week just to check in. She would share some gossip she had heard or talk about something at her church. Even on our best days, we didn’t have a lot to talk about. Naturally, I now wish we had been able to talk more.
When she had her knee replacement, we took turns staying with her. We had to make sure she ate, took her meds and that she did her exercises. I think that period of time was the most we had ever talked. We were trapped in her house and neither of us could leave. And she was “medicated” so she was a little more talkative. Our conversations were about family – about my kids, my siblings, my dad. She wasn’t one to open herself up. I think she believed that as my mother, she couldn’t show any signs of weakness or need. That was how she lived her life – just powering through, on her own, no matter how she felt or what she wanted for herself. There was a lot of stored up resentment and that’s what most of us felt from her. As children, we learned to avoid anything that would remotely cause a conflict. Consequently, a lot of the time, that meant avoiding her altogether.
What that means for me now is that I have a hard time visiting her. It isn’t just that she doesn’t know me or talk to me, it is the years of not being able to talk to her prior to this odd dementia. Trying to establish a relationship with a stranger behind a wall of my own making. Heartbreaking.
I know that there will come a day when she passes. Will it be soon? No way of predicting. I also know that she loved all of us in her way, the best way she could. She took care of us and she would have done anything for us. The times she couldn’t give us what we needed were because those were the same times she couldn’t get what she needed. I understand.