Thursday, 25 June 2009

wishful thinking

Sometimes, as I drive over to see Mum, an idea comes into my head: a poignant fantasy that stops my heart for a moment and I have to shake my head and try and ignore it.

In this fantasy there is nothing actually wrong with Mum and she's actually just pretending.

As the movie violins kick in, I dream of a Mother who saw that her Son was holding back on his dreams because he was worried about leaving her behind when he went off on his travels. She cleverly faked her slide into Dementia in order to fool him into placing her in Care.

I know it's solipsistic and stupid, worthy of a daytime soap-opera plot, but the emotion behind it is strong for me, and I invariably get quite teary-eyed and short of breath thinking about it.

And I know why. It's the idea that Mum could be selflessly maternal. I realise that I've spent my life testing her maternal instincts and she's never passed that test. It seems there's still a child within me who still needs his Mummy.

I spend a few minutes with Mum and the fantasy evaporates. She really isn't pretending. I feel sadness for her, of course, but some also for myself.


Sorata said...

I'm sort of speechless after reading this... and am still speechless.

I think that will actually make a great screenplay, not a cheesy one that you suggested.

Maybe the you have always been the mother in the relationship... maybe it was your Mom who needed the maternal instincts from you.

Sorata said...

PS: I just send the comment... the "word verification" asked me to type "hates"... I was shocked that they allow that word to be there O_o

Greg said...

Yikes! I was worried enough about this post, but your experience with the word verification has freaked me out a little. If you get "ungrateful little shit" next time, or "bad son", please let me know and I'll delete the story...

Anonymous said...

I check your site periodically because it helps me to read the thoughts of someone else caregiving/managing the minutia of life of a parent with dementia. I've posted before as anonymous.

My mom has vascular dementia; she often does not recognize me now.

I understand about the mental daydreams.... that the whole situation is just a horrible joke and she will stop it and then we can laugh about it later. or that when she talks about seeing her parents or my dead father, that somehow, she really IS communicating with them. Its silly, I know. But the emotions of the situation are so unreal, so much like a horrible nightmare, that my daydreams are a little respite.

I have Mom in a very good care facility. Its homey and the people are caring and considerate. I'm lucky there.

But it is still a nightmare. Do you notice that it takes HOURS to recuperate after you've visited her? I come home and am blank for hours. Like being in shock. It happens every single time. I don't understand why I react this way.

Sorry for the negativity. But thanks for the kindnesses in your posts. Your blog has really been a comfort.


Greg said...

I'm glad to know that your Mom is in a good place, P.

I suppose my 2 hour long drives to and from my Mum's place insulate me from that feeling of blankness you describe. I do notice that I'm quite introspective on the way there - fantasies like the one I've posted here generally come to me en-route.

As soon as I'm with Mum, any illusions and fantasies are shattered. I frequently find that the lovely thing I've bought or prepared for her requires too much from her to understand, and I rediscover the extent of Mum's debility all over again with a fresh mourning.

I'll keep an eye on my recuperation time when I visit her next. I have to admit that I tend to leave with a feeling of considerable relief. As wonderful as the Home is for Mum, I chafe at the lack of complex stimuli and can't bear the locked doors that Mum still hasn't noticed in 18 months. On the way back I'm concentrating on driving, of course, but also processing anything interesting that happened during the visit and composing a blog entry in my head, so that probably staves off the blankness.

Your "shocked" reaction could be grief, I think.

Dementia kills the "person" but we don't get to bury the body and return to our own lives. Instead, we are faced with the horrifying prospect of tending to our not-Mother, to the body that has lived on.

I don't think we're wired up to be able to see our Mothers and not respond in a familial way, however inappropriate it now is.

Ugh.. I'm too tired to make any sense tonight. I apologise for my ramblings. Thanks for your comment - stay in touch


LSL said...

The "ungrateful little shit" comment stopped me in my tracks. God, Greg, for all that is good and holy, please start a personal blog!

What I came here to say was two things: I want to hug that little boy in the picture; just love on him and kiss those cheeks, and also - I have a mother who was very non-maternal while I was growing up. It's difficult. I wish I'd gotten what I didn't get, and I probably always will.

citygirl said...

Greg, I'm so glad you wrote this entry. I often had these fantasies about my mom suddenly snapping out of it and being herself again. I think it's because Alzheimers seems so surreal at times. When you think about it, could there be a more cruel and bizarre disease for a human?

I often had these fantasies while driving over to see my mom also. I wished so much that she'd be "my mom" again and pat me on the back while I cried about whatever boy had broke my heart or how mean someone at work was to me. I know these tragedies I'm crying about are not the end of the world but they're the type of thing that only my mom could console me about.

I also had the idea sometimes that perhaps I was the one who was dreaming this whole situation up, i.e. I was in a coma and this had been one long nightmare which I'd wake up out of one day and find my mom sitting beside my bed.

Greg, I'm so sorry that you never received the maternal nurturing from your mom that everyone needs. I think that must hurt alot inside of you.

On a last note, did you ever feel that your mom was slightly "off" way before Alzheimers appeared? I know my mom always seemed a bit different and I still can't put my finger on it till this day.

ps my verification is wayin!

Greg said...

Hey Citygirl, thanks as always for your comment. I'm glad to know that it sparked a memory for you, too.

I've been thinking a lot recently about just how early I should have spotted Mum's dementia. It's clear to me that she was already pretty far gone as far back as 1999, when Dad died. My Dad was pretty stoic and take-charge and meticulous, so he hid what had happened to Mum until he was suddenly gone. At the time, Mum attributed her "mistakes" to grief and exhaustion. I remember that I didn't totally accept that, but then I didn't explicitly consider dementia either. I don't think I dared. Mum had enough of her wits about her that she would have been furious if I'd suggested it. So I looked away as she engaged one after another of those helpful souls who flatter and prey on lonely elderly ladies, and the money that my Dad had so carefully hoarded over the years flooded out of the family coffers. I don't understand my reticence now, but at the time I really didn't WANT to see what was plainly there. In my defense, I was working very long hours very far away, so I probably didn't dare speculate as to what was happening with Mum for time management reasons, too.

I feel pretty guilty that I left it so long, until Mum was almost killing herself through self-neglect, before educating myself about dementia and intervening. But perhaps my rescue would have been angrily rebuffed if it had come earlier.

So, hmm... early signs of "offness":
1) serious inability to deal with numbers in 1999
2) childish pettiness over her Will in 2000
3) increasing credulousness and vulnerability 1999-present
4) beginning of regular "falls" in the street - Mum is now walking without lifting her feet - she's shuffling - 2002 - possible she'd had another minor stroke
5) loss of any empathy with others and corresponding increase in selfish behaviours 1999-2000
6) driving ability declines sharply 2004, car rarely used afterward, several bumps and scrapes within car parking area

I could go on for hours with this stuff, so I'll stop there.

Another of my "fantasies", though, is directly related to your question. I often think back to my early teens and the first drama I can remember on television that dealt with Alzheimer's (or more likely "Senile Dementia" at the time). I remember Mum's extreme reaction and sensitivity about this drama - which I'm experienced enough now to recognise as a reaction based upon fear. I always find myself wondering if Mum felt her grip on reality was a weak one even then (early 1980s), or whether there was a family member I haven't heard about who she knew had succumbed to dementia.