Sisters?

My third attempt at a self-portrait of the two of us. It obviously wasn't easy. But Mom put up with me reaching around her head.

My third attempt at a self-portrait of the two of us. It obviously wasn’t easy. But Mom put up with me reaching around her head.

An employee at the Alz center asked me today if Mom and I are sisters. I know that is a compliment to Mom’s lovely skin and serene facial expression. And I try very hard not to care about whether I look my age, or younger or older. But I was slightly taken aback. I do fly my gray-hair flag with complete comfort. But I have good skin, too, so I don’t think I look like Mom’s contemporary even though she looks young. I didn’t take actual offense. When I told her I am Mom’s daughter, she said she used to be asked if she was her mom’s sister, too, because her mom looked so young. It’s all good. And it inspired me to take a picture of Mom and me together.

Our visit got off to a bumpy start. An aide was looking for Mom at the same time I was when I walked into the program area. She had been told Mom was wet so she wanted to change her clothes. She got Mom to stand up and told her I was there but that she had to go to the bathroom before we could visit. Mom grudgingly went along with her. When they returned, Mom had on a fresh set of clothes. She was somewhat grumpy. I asked the aide how it went. “She hates me. She hates me,” she said. That’s what Mom says when she is changed. But it’s all verbal, nothing physical. I tried to rub Mom’s back and she pushed my hand away. Mom gave me a sneer and the aide said, “Good luck.”

Mom and I walked for a short while, and I could tell she was still agitated. “You’re a son of a bitch,” she said to me. She walked across the program area and sat in a chair. I walked away from her to get my coat, and to let her relax for a second without any disturbance. I pulled up a chair and just talked quietly to her for a little bit. “I hate you,” she said. I was trying very hard not to be upset by this. I hadn’t visited her in a long time – just over three weeks, possibly a record – and I felt guilty about that. Also, the last time I visited she was sound asleep, so we didn’t talk at all. I’m usually convinced Mom has no sense of time, but I wondered: Does she think I stayed away for too long?

I held her hand and started rubbing it gently. I just kept doing that. And I said to Mom that I would love it if she would just smile. “Do I know you?” she said. “I’m Emily. I’m your daughter,” I replied. “You’re Bonnie. Bonnie Caldwell.” She nodded slowly. She occasionally lowered her head and I thought she was probably tired. I gently massaged Mom’s forearm along with her hand. Finally, she laughed. Just quietly, as if to herself. And we began to have what has come to be a normal visit, with her telling short stories but not making much sense, and both of us occasionally cracking each other up. I told her I had missed having a chance to talk to her over these past few weeks, that Patrick’s dad had passed away and that I had had trouble staying in the groove at work. Those two things were related somewhat, I am sure. But I also began to feel, recently, that my persistent bad mood related to missing Mom, too. I am a creature of routine, and Mom is part of my routine. Plus, in the past, when I’ve been down, I’ve just wanted to talk to my mom about it. Some things just don’t change.

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5 comments so far

  1. patwhite67 on

    I felt for you as I read your latest note about visiting your mom. I doubted that I could have handled things as well as you did. And I know what you mean about wishing for a good talk with our moms. All was right with the world when things were positive with my mom.

  2. momsbrain on

    Hi, Pat-I don’t know that I handled things so well. I just told myself to ride out the bad mood for as long as I could stand it. Fortunately, it didn’t last long. I do think I should be used to not having Mom to talk to anymore, but sometimes I miss that more than other times… Thanks for commenting!

  3. Sandy on

    That’s a great picture! I finally have my mom in a memory care unit and it feels like not a moment too soon! she has had such a rapid descent in the past few months, it is astounding… I miss talks with my mom too, language was one of the first things she lost.

  4. sharon thomson on

    great picture, but you don’t look like sisters! 🙂 normal conversations with my Mom is what I miss the most. I used to tell her almost everything. But when she got sick with dementia that stopped. A few months ago I decided to start telling her stuff again in moderation if it wasn’t too confusing. I think it has helped us get along better. She surprises me sometimes with almost ‘normal’ responses. She even asks me questions later sometimes about stuff I said. I guess it is a new normal. And it is comforting to have at least that. ….Sorry about your father in law (?).

  5. momsbrain on

    Hi, Sandy-Good to hear from you. I’m sorry to hear about the rapid progression of your mom’s disease. I hope you are happy with her facility – I know there can be complicated emotions about nursing homes… Thanks for commenting.

    Hi, Sharon-I tell Mom things, too, and I don’t think she comprehends anything, but I like to talk to her. She rarely says something in response that makes sense, but she might say something funny. She tries to tell me things, too – I wish I could peek inside her head to know what thoughts are swirling around in there. New normal – I know that feeling! Hope you’re doing OK.


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