Don’t think too much

So, I’ve had just about enough of Mr. R. But that is too bad for me, because really, what can I do about the attachment he and Mom have for each other? It would be unreasonable to ask staff to spend time and energy trying to keep them apart. And that would not make Mom happy. And just today, I am frustrated about him. Tomorrow, or at least the next time I visit the Alz center, I might be charmed by him. Such is the nature of this disease and this relationship between him and my mom.

I visited this afternoon, after lunch. I walked across the lobby and there were Mom and Mr. R, holding hands and just entering the lobby from the program area hall. Mom smiled broadly and hugged me. I noticed right away that her clothes were just filthy. She had spots all over her shirt, something that looked like pie filling under her chin and a substance resembling dried mashed potatoes on the front of her pants. Plus a few other spots on her pants, and a smear of red on her shoulder. It struck me as funny, but it also kind of made me mad, because it meant no one put a bib on Mom for lunch, probably. It could also have meant Mom refused the bib, or took it off, or managed to get dirty despite the presence of the bib.

I joined Mom and Mr. R for their walk, and we went over to the skilled area and kept walking until we hit a dead end in one of the two hallways. I walked behind them – there wasn’t enough room in this area for us to walk three across. I felt kind of like an idiot. When we crossed the lobby again and headed back toward the program area, Mom took my hand and kissed it. That moment is a good memory from this visit. We found a couch near Mom’s room and sat down, with Mom in the middle. Mr. R took Mom’s hand, and he started talking. A lot. He sounded a little frustrated. He didn’t make complete sense. I heard him talk about “another guy.” The general theme was something about Mom spending time with another man. He eventually let go of Mom’s hand, and she put her hand on his leg, and he pushed it away. Mom seemed very passive. I said, “Are you arguing?” And she said, “What’s arguing?” Isn’t that amazing, that she asked that question? Mostly I just sat quietly, staring across the room. Mom eventually pointed to her shirt and said, “This looks awful.” I offered to get her a new shirt, and she seemed to like that idea.

When we stood up to go to her room to get another shirt, Mr. R got up and followed us into Mom’s room. He was protesting the idea. He said, “I know what this means, a new shirt.” I said I wanted to give Mom a new shirt, and he told me not to. And I said, “Why?” And he said, “Because I said so.” “But WHY?” I persisted. And he started to push her out of the room. And I said, “Don’t be mean to her.” And he said, “I’m not mean to her. I’m mean to you.” True enough. They walked away, holding hands. Mom had not said a word during this exchange. And now her back was to me, and I’m sure, before she and Mr. R turned the corner to go to another lounge area, she had forgotten about me. I just stood there for several seconds in the door of Mom’s room. And then I walked out, and didn’t say goodbye to Mom. I thought about talking to my favorite nurse about this, but I thought I knew what she would say. Mr. R might be having a bad day. Or he just might be having a mood. There’s nothing I can do about this, and there’s no way I can predict what might happen the next time I visit.

Driving away, and later, I thought more about this. And that is a mistake. This is what it is. It is not my fault. It would make no sense whatsoever to think I could reason with Mr. R and let him know he has no need to be jealous of me for the hour per week I spend with Mom – and with him. It’s just a waste of energy for me to wonder why he would want to be mean to me. He doesn’t know why. I am quick to tell others whose loved ones hurt their feelings that it is the disease talking. When Mr. R was stopping me from changing Mom’s clothes, it was the disease in action. But still, I want to say, “Fuck you, mister. You suck. She is MY mom. I hate you.” That’s not disease talking – that is my broken heart talking. And it’s not true. I don’t hate him. I just hated the way he acted today.

I had hoped to take Mom out on a dry run before my sister arrives this weekend for a visit. I wanted to take her to lunch last Friday, but it was so hot that I didn’t think it would be good for Mom, or for me. The same was true Saturday. And after today, I don’t feel inclined to chance it with Mr. R’s mood again anytime soon. I also don’t know if a dry run would make any difference in how Mom might handle an outing when Laura is here. So we will just have to wing it. That’s pretty much how it is all the time – we have to figure things out as we go.


9 comments so far

  1. deb athy guinan on

    i can understand why Mr R grates on your nerves. you were a lesson in patience.

  2. Laura on

    I am prepared to play it by ear. We won’t take her out if it seems to stress her or Mr. R. I’ll have a tough time holding my tongue if he is mean to you again, though!

  3. Gemma on

    Again, this reminds me of what happened when my children were children. As much as I tried to control them, they eluded me. (That continues today!) Your reactions are so familiar — I would want to do something that, to my mind, was vital to their comfort (clean shirt, for instance) and they would thwart my good intentions. If I had been visiting Bonnie, I would automatically expect her to take my side against Mr. R. It would have hurt me when she didn’t. Like you say, there’s no logic behind this — just pure emotion.

  4. viki on

    Hi Bonnie
    I think you had a good idea: talking this sit over with your ‘favorite nurse”- or someone else there. I guess they still have patient-family conferences–you could get some ideas (and support) thwre.
    I could feel along with you…no need to accept being alone in this.

  5. momsbrain on

    Deb: I thought I was used to him, and then this. Sort of a drag.

    Laura: Thank you for being flexible. I want you to be able to have a nice time with Mom. And things could very well be just fine – this sort of threw me for a loop.

    Gemma: I didn’t really expect Mom to defend me. I am relieved that she seems unaffected by his occasional nasty behavior. But it also surprises me – she used to be so tuned in to negativity, but now she seems oblivious.

    Viki: We do have conferences on a quarterly basis. I will also talk about it at support group tomorrow night.

    Thank you for your support, all!

  6. Jeff on

    I’m constantly struggling with the “I don’t hate him; i just hate how he acted today” with my current summer job. That remindful separation is useful to me if I can let my rational brain in on the reaction. Love you.

  7. momsbrain on

    Jeff, don’t be so hard on yourself – it’s a lot easier not to hate, and to forgive, someone whose brain is full of disease. The bad interaction wasn’t my fault, but it wasn’t his, either. Patrick and I just had an interesting talk last night about rational vs. emotional brain. Also, we saw Wicked! Love you, too.

  8. jgemacher on

    Hi momsbrain, I’m trying to catch up with your blog and read back so at this point I’m not familiar with a lot of the back story. I wanted to let you know now though, that all your feelings and emotions that you are going through are valid and important to look at, examine, peruse, take apart and eventually decide to discard or keep. Your mom really has no control over the situation anymore and that is a good thing given that her brain capacity is shrinking. I have found with my husband now being in an assisted living facility, that I go over and over thoughts and feelings and have new insights that are comforting and I discard a lot of useless guilty garbage. Sometimes when I show up to visit my husband shows no interest in me whatsoever and even though I was prepared to be less important to him, I didn’t expect to not exist. But his memory is limited and when I’m not there it is easy to discard that memory and be purely in the moment. All good given the nature of this disease and the fact that I’m not there for him so I wouldn’t like for him to be missing me and wondering why I’m not there with him. This is much better.
    On a different note, is it possible for the home to arrange an activity or a need for Mr. R. to be otherwise occupied when you come to visit so you can have a little personal time with your mom? Just a wondering thought. Good luck.

  9. momsbrain on

    Hi, jgemacher – This blog actually helps me process a lot of my emotions. I do know that Mom having a companion is a wonderful thing for her, and that her happiness is most important. And I am glad she doesn’t miss me when I’m not around – I can’t deny that that makes things much easier for me. As for your question – my sister and I did get some help from an activities staff member when we wanted to take Mom out. She distracted Mr. R, and we whisked Mom away. It was great. Thanks for your comment – I still need to catch up on the latest with you.

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