Irritability

I have been really irritable today, and I still am this evening. Really irritable. Like, don’t touch me irritable. I’m not exactly sure why. I try to do as much as I can to prevent this. I am fairly militant about getting enough sleep. I exercise regularly. I eat relatively well, but sometimes too much. I get therapeutic massage once per month. And I have nothing in particular to complain about – happy marriage, good job, cute house, adorable dogs, lots of friends, etc. etc. So when I get like this, I just assume it’s at least in part attributable to this constant, nagging presence in my mind that I have a sick mom.

It could be guilt. I have been a master at feeling guilt my whole life. I’m great at telling others to live guilt-free. I believe what I say. If only I could live it. I tell Mom’s friends I hope they can be guilt-free about whether they decide to visit her or not. It’s not easy to see her this way, to try to talk to her and get so little in response. I’m not sure there’s any reason I should feel guilt when it comes to her. But I think it is the bane of the caregiver’s existence – I could be doing more, I could be visiting more, I could be cleaning up after her more, I could be helping her dress, I could call her every day, I could be showering her with daughterly attention, I could be making sure she is physically showered more frequently, I could take her to get a haircut, I could be keeping her company more often, I could be stocking her fridge with Coke, I could be buying her cookies, I could be having more meals with her, I could take her out to eat more, I could bring her to my house more often, I could facilitate her outings with friends, I could I could I could I could.

An old friend of hers called me out of the blue on Friday. This woman went to college with Mom, was her roommate at one time. My mom and dad introduced this woman to her husband (whom she later divorced). Her kids and my siblings and I grew up together. But in recent years, she has seen less of Mom, been in touch less often. The same was true from Mom’s end, and at some point, Mom quit initiating contact with friends except for three women she lunched with almost every Tuesday. This friend who called had just heard from another old college friend that Mom has Alzheimer’s. She was stunned. She couldn’t decide if she wants to visit Mom at this point or not, and I completely understand that and will not judge her decision. She feels guilty. But Mom was no better than she was at keeping in touch at the best of times. She has no reason to feel guilt. I wondered: Should I feel guilty for not telling her? Well, I have decided to absolve myself of that. When Mom moved to assisted living, I informed friends and family of her new contact information. That was friends and family who were currently involved with Mom in some way. I didn’t intentionally omit anyone. I actually didn’t have current contact information for this friend. At any rate, I really like this woman and it was really nice to speak with her and catch up. The circumstances just sucked so bad, and it was clear we both felt terribly sad while we were talking. I left out many of the worst details. But one thing was apparent: There is a very good chance Mom no longer knows who she is.

I haven’t experienced that yet. I have the distinction of being the one family member that Mom DOES know virtually all the time. She has forgotten her previously vivid memories of an unhappy childhood with her own sister. When we visited my aunt at Thanksgiving, Mom kept saying to her, “I feel like I should know you…” That was unexpected. She seems to remember my brother, but she sometimes seem to have trouble conceptualizing my sister, especially if both of us are with her. The four of us went to lunch over the Christmas holiday and we said, “We are your family. We are your three children.” She sort of smiled and said, “Really?” She just didn’t understand. But there’s no use being irritable over something like that – she simply cannot help it.

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