In her own world

When I visited Mom yesterday, I decided to take notes to record as much as I could of what she said. I often describe her conversation as nonsense small talk, but it is really more than that. It seems to me that she could be describing a number of things: memories of interactions with staff and other residents, a recent visit from someone – a friend or a volunteer, or perhaps what is happening in the present, described by her as if it happened in the past and with her own twist on the interpretation. Or it could all be imagination, delusion, hallucination. Whatever it is, she speaks in complete sentences and seems to be talking with conviction, typically describing events of some kind. It’s really interesting.

I visited after lunch on Sunday for a change of pace and because it was a better fit for my schedule. Now that her recognition of me seems to be iffy, I’m going to try not to let as much as a week pass between visits anymore. I found Mom lying on a couch in the program area with Mr. R sitting in a chair next to the couch, near where her head was. I walked toward them, and it seemed that Mom spotted me coming toward her, but her face registered no recognition. She just stared at me, and I stared at her as I walked in her direction. When I got up close, I said, “Hi, Mom,” and she pushed herself up onto her shoulder and held out one hand toward me and said, “I’m amazed by you.” And then she rested her head again.

I pulled up another chair and sat down and got out my notebook. It didn’t seem to mean anything at all to her that I was taking notes, probably because she doesn’t recognize the activity as anything unusual. She was very cheerful, which was good to see. And she began to talk.

“I wasn’t sure when it started. … She came in. She walked in one day and said, ‘Oh, OK.'”

She pointed to Mr. R and said, “There she is. I’m gonna tell on you.” She was being playful with him.

And she went on, “I wanted to see it, too, but I didn’t get to see it.”

When she says these things, I nod or say, “Oh, really?” or something like that.

“Do you want to grow up?” she asked me. How to answer? I said, “Not necessarily. I like being the age I am, but I don’t have to grow any older.” I’m not sure why I said that, because I actually am enjoying aging. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest. She replied, “I might want to, but not tonight.”

And then, in a weird segue, she said, “Isn’t it awful that we’re going to be dead pretty soon?” I told her I wasn’t sure at all that that was true, for either of us. And we laughed. So she wasn’t being morose.

About Mr. R, she said, “She’s OK. She’s just pretending not to hear.” An astute observation, I thought. He did ignore us, essentially, though he would exchange glances with Mom from time to time. He seemed perfectly neutral about everything.

Mom later said, “She said, ‘Get off of me,’ and I was there the whole half of the day.” I think, here, that she was recalling an angry exchange between two women at a nearby table. One resident told another, repeatedly, “Get your foot off of me. Get your foot off of me.”

Out of the blue, Mom said, “This is a wonderful place to be. The people come to visit. … I think it’s going to be…we’ll also not be playing.”

A little later, to me: “I should go to your house sometime.” I told her that would be nice. And that I’d like to take her to a restaurant for lunch.

I said to her, “You seem to be in a really good mood.” And Mom replied, “Oh, that’s nice. I’ll have to tell her that.”

She went on, “It probably wouldn’t take very long to see your best friends. It’s not completely ready for swimming.”

I started to sing along with a song playing over the loudspeaker. I said, “Can you hear the music?” And Mom said, “What is it you want me to do?”

I noticed Mom had a patch of bruises near her left armpit, and along her left wrist. I assumed she might have had a bad bump or fall recently. I touched the bruises and asked if it hurt, but it didn’t seem too bad. She rubbed the bruises on her wrist and seemed to realize the color of her skin wasn’t quite right, but she wasn’t sure why. I showed her a big bruise I have on my inner thigh, to show her how bruises aren’t that big a deal. I also have thought this big, purplish-black bruise looks a little too much like a Bonnie bruise. Mom has bruised easily for a long time, and I’m sort of stunned to see a bruise of mine resembling hers. And, oddly, I have no idea what caused my bruise.

Mom wanted to show me a bruise on her leg. Her pant leg was too tight to pull up around her calf – she has very puffy legs. So she stood up and pulled down her pants – only her pants and not her underwear, so that was good. She sat back down, and I looked briefly for bruises, because I thought that was what she was trying to show me. I said I didn’t see any and that I thought she could pull her pants back up. We both were amused. I didn’t want to make a big deal of it. But it will never stop being stunning to see my mom pull down her pants. That’s all there is to it.

When it was time to leave so I could come home to watch the World Cup final, I just told Mom I had to leave. She and Mr. R walked with me to the lobby. They held hands. When we got there, I hugged Mom and said, for about the fifth time, that I was leaving and they were staying. And she said, “Well, in that case…” And I said, “You might as well go on back down the hall.” And they turned around and walked away.

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4 comments so far

  1. Sherri on

    It seems she’s happy, and that’s good. Also, even though her recognition of you is iffy, she does still seem to trust you with a lot of info and talk to you quite a bit and that is part of recognition, isn’t it? Like I said, I’m learning a lot about Alzheimer’s from reading you here, so…

  2. momsbrain on

    Hi, Sherri. Yes, she was really happy on this particular day, and I liked that. I thought, too, that the fact that she talks so much must mean she is comfortable with me. I just expected her to always know my face if not my name and relationship to her. But why do I expect anything? It’s all a mystery. I learn as I go.

  3. Julia Harris on

    wonderful post, Emily. I enjoyed reading your mom’s conversation and trying to figure out what her comments might mean. The bit about growing up was really interesting to me. And, like always, I am amazed by your patience and kindness toward your mother and your willingness to go on this ride with her even if at times it’s painful, confusing, unsettling, and almost too tender to bear.

  4. momsbrain on

    Thanks, Julia. I am not the most patient person, but at this point in Mom’s illness, I can usually pull it off with her, at least until I am out of her presence. What I am NOT patient with is stupid financial stuff that still haunts me. So I write terse letters and that helps me a little bit. It also helps when she is as cheerful as she was on this day. She is so cute and smiley and that cheers me up.


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