It's been almost three weeks since my mom returned home from the rehabilitation center. I've been able to visit her twice, and there are some great things happening--along with some very hard things.
Everyone in my family is struggling with this slow loss of our sweet mother. And each of us deals with it in our own way. My way is through writing, so I'm just going to let everything spill out below.
The good news is that my mom knows her environment now and seems so much happier than she was within the unfamiliar walls of the rehab center. Between me, my siblings, and some dear friends and neighbors, my dad now is getting help full-time for my mom so he doesn't have to shoulder this huge responsibility on his own.
Mom is standing better than she was before the second break, she recently got a new haircut, she has some new clothes and shoes that my sister Lisa helped her pick out. We're in a pretty good routine right now, and I'm finally able to relax during the day because I'm not worried that my mom will fall again. (That's an enormous relief. I can't even tell you how anxious I was about that.)
When I go to visit, we spend as much time as we can outside. Here's a photo from last week when Spencer held my mom's hand while we crossed the street. (See how she points her finger to tell him where to go? She's so cute.)
We ran into our dear friend Marsha while we were on our walk, and I just had to post this photo. Marsha's daughter Emily is one of my best friends. We played together every day after school all throughout our elementary years, and now Marsha helps tend my mom sometimes so my dad can go on his walks along the seashore. She's such a great neighbor.
This is from yesterday. Alia's a good helper.
This is me and my mom--my best friend. Doesn't she look happy?
So that's all good news. And I am incredibly grateful.
It's just that along with all this good news, what's happening inside my mom's head is devastating to me.
At the visit to the doctor's this week, my sister found out that my mom's "dementia" can actually now be termed "Alzheimer's." That shouldn't surprise me, but it still hurt to hear the word. And I do think it helps me to understand what's going on. Here are some examples:
At least one hour of every visit is spent in the restroom, helping my mom with those very personal, human needs that become so much harder when a person gets old. She can't remember what's happening or how long she's been in there or why hand soap doesn't go on toothbrushes. She pulls things out of the cupboards and wraps them up in towels and tries to hide them in the drawers--all while I'm saying, "It's okay Mom. Let's put those things away and get you out in the living room to see your grandchildren."
And then she looks so happy and surprised and says, "Oh! My grandchildren are here? Which ones?"
So I tell her their names (even though she saw them just moments before), and by the time we get out to the hallway, she's surprised that they're there (again).
My dad tried to make a cake with my mom last week (to keep her active and happy), but every time he turned his back, she would hide the measuring spoons or some other kitchen gadget he was using (he found some items in the drawer under the stove), and although he was trying to be patient, it was just too much for him. No cake this week.
I can tell my dad is struggling. He doesn't know how to say it, but I know he's mourning the loss of his wife. You wouldn't know it if you saw him, but I think it's harder on him than it is on any of us.
There are dozens of other stories I could tell, but a lot of them are sad, and a lot of them are too personal to post.
I'm handling this better than I thought I would be, but today on my run, I had to stop for a couple of minutes because I was just sobbing. Same thing when I took my shower. And right now.
There used to be little moments of conversation--some recollection of our past together that we could talk about and laugh about. But yesterday there was nothing. She talks in circles and keeps trying to "accomplish something," but she can't focus. She thinks her parents are there in the house with us, and for some reason, she's convinced that puppies and kitty cats are supposed to be there, as well, but she can't find them.
I hug her and kiss her and press my cheek to hers and say, "I love you so much, Mom."
She hugs me back and says, "Oh, I believe it, April. I know you love me. And I love you, too."
Last week, she asked me to take her to her bed early and just lie down next to her. I hadn't done that since college.
I wrapped my arms around her and told her I didn't know what I would do without her, and she reassured me, "I'll always be with you. I'll always be with you."
When I turn out her lights and put the side up on her hospital bed, I always bring my children in to "kiss Grandma goodnight," and then I tell her that I'll be back in the morning so we can make pancakes. I'm never there in the morning, but she doesn't know that, and the thought of pancakes always makes her smile.
I don't like this process. It hurts, and it's difficult to manage with my four children--especially my five-year-old, who inevitably spills red punch or a whole bag of Costco goldfish crackers or falls in the bay with his clothes on (when we didn't bring extra underwear).
But this is part of life. And it's binding all of us together with a common cause. And I feel God with me, teaching me.
Thanks for letting me share. Just having someone to tell makes it so much easier.