Sunday, September 30, 2012

When the Truth No Longer Matters

This is my beautiful mother at the age she thinks she is now.  Or sometimes she thinks she’s younger than this, still a child going to school or one who lives in her parents’ house. She constantly wants to go home because they will be worried about her. Oh, to be able to go home to where confusion didn’t muddle things, where those she loves are still alive and well and ready to welcome her back. She has no use for this place where people are continually refusing to let her put on her shoes and walk home.

Other times she’s more the age she is in this picture. Early thirties or late twenties. Her children are still young. Her husband still needs to have supper cooked for him. A lot of the time she can’t understand why he doesn’t want to come around anymore. Lately that has changed somewhat to she just talked to him this morning or he just left. At times it feels as though I’m in the midst of a crowd of invisible people – those she sees in her memory’s eye who are so real to her. She’ll ask, “Has Maggie left?” Or “Where did she go?” I’ve never known a Maggie in our family or any friend of Mom’s named Maggie now or in the past. Well, we did have a Maggie cat once, but she’s talking about a person and not a cat. 

Most of the time it is a name I do know. People who have passed on. Her sisters. Her mother and father. My father. She sometimes doesn’t know me now. I’m way too old. Older than she is. I tease about that with my kids – about how they somehow got older than me. But I never imagined that someday, if dementia steals my reality, I might actually think that had happened.
 
And all that is why the truth no longer matters. Until recently I tried to not actually lie when Mom heads back into her dementia reality. I skirted the truth and did my best to avoid responding directly when Mom talked about going to see her mother. I could distract her by talking about birds or the grandkids. But things have gotten worse now. I don’t think she knows she has grandchildren. And what a terrible loss that is. It makes me sad to think about it. Even sadder than when she says I’m her aunt or her sister-in-law. To lose your family seems the worst.
 
But then she hasn’t lost her beginning family. She went to the grocery store with her mother just this morning and should have helped her more. All the “others” will be here any time now and we might need to cook extra for them. Or when did they all leave? And why didn’t they let her ride home with them?
 
The truth of all the “others” having long ago left her and moved on up to heaven does nothing but make her very sad for about five minutes. Then she forgets that you’ve told her that and starts asking where the “others” are all over again. Truth doesn’t matter. And so I’ve stopped telling the truth in plain words. Now I say that they’ve already gone home. I don’t have to add that home is heaven. I say maybe Dad is playing horseshoes. He could be, couldn’t he? I say they’ll all be waiting to see her tomorrow and then when tomorrow comes the tomorrow after that.  I say it’s too dark to go anywhere. I say that everybody will be settled in wherever they are. I don’t say I saw Maggie or whoever appears in Mom’s dementia visions. I just say she must have left before I came. And so I lie because the truth no longer matters to my mother. The truth is way too sad.
 
Thanks for reading. I promise to come up with something more cheerful Wednesday, but I know a number of you have gone through the same things with your parents or loved ones that we're going through with my mother.


20 comments:

  1. Ann, we had a similar experience with my mother. I wrote about it in a local magazine. Title is "Mothers Never Quit, Even When They Don't Remember Why." Here's a link to online version: http://hometownkentenn.com/April-May2012/pg_0025

    Photo is my mother and me on my first birthday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I read your article, Emily. A beautiful picture of a lady who must have been a beautiful mother. Thanks for sharing.

      Delete
  2. I have a friend who is going through the same thing with her mom. Very similar stories; sad time of life.

    Shirley

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that is one of the oddest things about dementia. I've talked with a lot of people who have cared for loved ones and the issues are so similar. Some differences, of course, but much the same. Makes you wonder if there is a center of basic memory that all else is built upon.

      Delete
  3. I know just what you are going through Ann. Daddy is always "working".Usually farming. When he worries about getting up a cow or fixing a fence, I just say Austin already did it for you. Austin is Daddy's older brother, thankfully he is still with us. That poor man is much busier in Daddy's mind than he is real life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's sweet that you can tell him Austin is getting it done and it relieves your father's worries. We've tried lots of things with Mom but her worries seem to cycle around again and again. There's a house up the road that seems to be the center of mom's worries. For many months a planter was a little boy whose father was making him sit on the porch for hours and hours in punishment. Now the fire hydrant, painted blue and white, is a little girl. Mom was very agitated last week thinking the child was in the rain. She wanted to go rescue her.

      Delete
    2. Aww, that's so sad Ann.Your mom is a mom at heart, I can tell, because she worries about children.
      Ann, I think if you and I knew each other in face to face life that we would be great friends, we have a lot in common.

      Delete
    3. Lisa, I'm sure you're right. And friends are something good to gather.

      Delete
  4. Thank you for your beautiful post. Love always lasts. Kathleen

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ann, I have never had to go through this and am sure you become frustrated and sad as the day moves along, God be with you as you hold your Mom and remember the Mother she was before today. I think she is in very good hands with you loving her and talking to and about her "others".
    Paula O

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Paula. I appreciate the encouragement and support. And I always enjoy your comments.

      Delete
  6. Linda D. McFarlandOctober 2, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    Hi Ann, I read your post with a heavy, sad heart. What a special daughter you are and a blessing to your mom. I do hope you have an encourager to 'dump on' when you leave your mom. I can say with assurance that you should have no regrets after your mom is gone as you are giving your all to her now. I am getting ready for a two-day trip to visit my mom (I drive from PA to AR). Although she does not have dementia as a diagnosis, I see changes in her each time I visit (Spring/Fall) She has had her share of health issues but she is still able to live alone. Sorry this is so long but when it comes to my mom I would do anything for her, so in that you & I have a shared goal. Have a blessed week and remain confident you are in my prayers...Linda M.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Linda, thanks so much for your prayers. They are much appreciated and needed. But don't we all need prayers whatever is going on in our lives? I hope you have safe travel and that you and your mother will have a wonderful visit. I know you wish you were closer in distance, but I can tell you have remained close in heart.

      Delete
  7. Ann,
    The love you have for your mama just shines!! You probably don't realize what a blessing you are to so many.

    Love,
    Cathy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww, thanks, Cathy. Your words of encouragement are making me smile today.

      Delete
  8. WE keep you and your mom in our prayers. As you mentioned we are one who went through the same thing with my Mother. What our doctor told us helped us out greatly...it may not be true, but its true for her. So we tried to respect that. And to be gentle. The doctor said if you were to tell her someone she asked about had passed on, that it would be just like the first time it happened for her and could be very painful. So it is a fine line to walk between truth and tenderness. Sounds like your doing a good job of balancing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a great way to look at it, Kevin. It is true to her and that's one of the things that makes it hard for both of us. I feel so sad for her to be always in that other world where no one in this world can understand what she needs. With Mom, even if you get to the end of every avoidance of the truth and have come up with every fib you can tell and finally tell her that her mother is in heaven, she doesn't believe you. She says that's not right. She just talked to her this morning. Mom was always a strong character so she knows what is true without any help from me. I appreciate your encouraging words.

      Delete

Thanks for joining the conversation. I like hearing what you have to say. Thanks for dropping by.