There are days, with dementia, when good memories abound. When I visit Mom, almost all of the time, that’s the case. We're very lucky so far. She doesn’t put together my visits into any kind of continuum very well, so every Monday and Friday the visits seems a bit like a treat – like I haven’t been around for a long time – and the good will ensues (there is a lesson to learn in this, I think). Lots of love, lots of nice memories, smiles, laughs.
Monday seemed to be mostly about bad memories. Things went a bit sideways almost right away. The content of the bad remembrances is inconsequential; next time I visit (or in a couple hours, as the case may be) it will be gone, dissipated like the smell of burnt toast once you open a door and let the breeze blow through. But in the moment, sometimes, it’s hard to remember that.
Also, for me, there is the frustrating impossibility of talking it through. Logic and chronology are useless. There’s only the memory, feeling to her as if it was from yesterday, and the sediment it stirs up.
For me, there’s dismay, shame, guilt. Deserved or not relative to the memories in question, it’s stuff that I thought I’d addressed and banished long ago, failures (or perceived ones) as a teen or twenty-something. The desire to defend myself is powerful. And I subsequently feel powerless.
Powerless to represent my heart in a way that is audible and powerless to spare her the moment and the pain of it. There’s no way through and past except to try to find a potent kind of silence and let it all wash over. In the moment, I can only hope that an hour or two or a day will make the difference that words can’t. So we buckle in and hope to weather the storm.
And my empathy for Mirm grows, for the bad days she has to survive when I’m not around, when nobody is, and she must feel so alone, hoping that the next hour will bring a sea change, both for her own sake and for Mom’s. That they’ll have peace and love again.
It’s just not fair, and yet it’s the way it is. And we’ll still deal.
Some days are longer than others. Some too short. Here’s to the short ones.
Epilogue: The two hours, a few games of Solitaire on her computer, and a massive hug or twelve were all it took to come out the other side. But in that time this post was born, and it felt honest enough, so here it is in the spirit of full disclosure.