Wednesday, 11 June 2008

family wedding

My favourite member of staff at the Home had made sure Mum visited the hairdresser, had bathed her and had picked out and accessorised an outfit for her. She told me that Mum had been asking every day of the week whether Greg was coming. It’s gone into Mum’s 'Life Plan' * now that they don’t tell her about anything more than 24 hours in advance.

In the car, Mum turned to me and asked, casually, how things were “back home” and then asked after the health of a couple of relatives who have been dead for 12 and 30 years, respectively. My heart sank a little: Mum was trying to prove competence again, which is seldom a wise tactic on her part because she inevitably proves just the opposite.

Or maybe she was just time travelling again and was visiting a time when these relatives were alive - in that case, who was I?

At the Church, I helped Mum down the steps and we shuffled up the aisle, past our remaining family. I saw a couple of them visibly shocked at the transformation in Mum as I helped her gingerly into a pew. For her part, it didn’t seem like Mum recognised anyone at all.

After the Service and the confetti and photographs, we made our way to the Reception venue (a 20 minute car journey). En route, Mum asked me 6 times where we were planning to go for lunch. Each time she had no recollection of a wedding or where we might therefore be going. Irritated, she took to pointing out things in the villages we passed through, saying how she’d seen whatever it was last week and was amazed that it hadn’t moved. This is something I’ve noticed Mum doing for about 6 years now – she experiences unshakable déjà-vu and treats my logical proofs that she’s never been there before with unconcealed disdain.

At the Reception, Mum ate unenthusiastically, glancing at me in her inscrutable way and replying in the vaguest terms to questions from other guests. She lasted longer than I had anticipated, but a couple of hours after the meal she’d had enough and suddenly asked to go.

As we said our goodbyes, I stood beside her and quietly announced each person as they came up to her, but she didn’t seem to register either names or faces. She didn’t even appear to understand the significance of the girl standing in front of her wearing a big white meringue…

Safely installed back at the Home, Mum gained confidence and gave me the first true smile of the day. I sat with her for an hour or so and she regaled me with the usual stories about the other residents. Here she was happy and engaged and interested in what was going on around her, in a way that had been lacking all day.

[*a continuously-updated document stating Mum's memories, relationships, life events and her wishes and needs]


Humphrey said...

This is a very engaging post, to say the least.

I think after following your posts for a little while now, I started to develope these mental images in my head how each events unfold (with moving character Greg and character Mum!) And this post, particularly, is almost like an individual episode of a television series.

Again, I couldn't have say it enough, you are honestly a wonderful son. And glad your Mum has a safe and comfortable space where she can be relaxed and just spend time with her favourite person in the world. :D

Greg said...

Thanks Humph

I didn't realise I'd gone ahead and posted this - I thought I'd left it in draft form - doh! I need to sleep...

I worried it was a bit dull ("we did this, we did that"). I prefer to post when some new insight comes to me as a result of what happens, but this proved to be a pretty uneventful day for the two of us, despite all my anticipation and preparations. I've now added a photo of Mum at the Reception to jazz the post up a bit :)

G x

Sorata said...

What a lovely picture of your Mom! She looks great in that blue dress.

An uneventful day to you might not be an uneventful day for another, it's all in perspective. Your one post could inspire another person to take his/her Mom out for a walk, so never under-estimate the power of your "uneventful day".

PS: Thanks for the comment in the cancer blog. Much appreciated. :D

Greg said...

Yes, it was the best picture I took of her on the day - she looks quite calm, collected and conscious of what's going on (quite a lucky shot, then!). Whenever she was in a group shot the Wedding Photographer had a hard time getting her to look at the camera.

I've no idea if those were her clothes. I don't remember packing that outfit last December, but I could be wrong. There's a fair bit of re-distribution that goes on in the household as a result of the communal laundry. The main thing is that Mum felt smart enough to be going out. Judging on the evidence of this outing, though, I don't think large events are a good idea from now onward. I think her birthday in October will be the last time a group should gather in one place for her - it's probably better we visit her individually after that.

Thanks for the encouragement. I flinch at being told I'm a good Son and all that - it's so not what I feel in myself, but thank you. :D

LSL said...

It sounds like a somewhat pleasant time out, despite the difficulties. When reading about her return to her home after the wedding, I was remembering when you were trying to decide what to do about her living situation, and thinking how good it is that she is getting the care she needs there. She's quite pretty. :)

(And - it was an interesting post!)

Matt said...

But you are a good son. It must be so hard on you to put so much energy into explaining things to her so often, and keeping an eye on her reactions to everything while you're with her.

The fact that she relaxed and became happier when she was back in her "home" should give you some confidence in the decision to move her there.

'Nother hug.

(P.S. My word verification started with jibberish, but ended with "Mum")

Greg said...

Thanks LSL and Matt. I read that you two have met up recently - now you're posting comments within minutes of each other! Get a room, already! :)

Yes, I was reassured by how comfortable Mum seemed back on familiar territory, and I thought back to my early concerns, too. It's just amazing now that I managed to get so many things right last Christmas - I'm not normally so effective.

Matt - gibberish and Mum aren't so far apart as you'd think sometimes :)

Hugs to both of you.

Greg x

citygirl said...

Greg, I came across your blog today and have been reading it up as fast as I can. My mother had Alzheimers for many, many years and just passed away this summer. I find reading blogs like yours somehow help when I'm having a hard day.

My mom used to ask how some long-dead relatives were all the time too. Then one day, she shocked me by asking how she knew me. When I said I was her daughter, she looked completely surprised and asked if she had other children and if she was ever married. That was a tough day...

Greg said...

Thank you so much for your comment. I'm touched to hear that reading my experiences helps you somehow. I hadn't considered the fellowship my words might bring to those who'd already seen this through to its conclusion. I've just been reading about your Mom. My condolences for your loss. 16 years, though...

The rate of my own Mum's illness shocks me. I guess I imagined that the not recognising me part might be years off, but she's already commenting on my changed appearance (changed from that of a little boy) every time she sees me. Apparently, though, I'm very much the hot topic of her conversation at the Home. Only last week a staff member told me, "You know you've got no secrets, Greg..." [Gulp!]

I think when Mum no longer knows who I am, I might start living my own life again and do some serious travelling. For now, though, I'm all that she's got. Reading your blog, I think you know exactly how that feels. Thank you for your fellowship.