Not really. Not for my family. Not for me. Not for her. Not for my dad. Our Mother’s Day sucked. Instead of brunch with mom at her favorite restaurant or an afternoon at home filled with laughter and love and pink carnations, we took my mom to her new home: A nursing home. Happy Mother’s Day indeed.
Of course, she had no idea it was Mother’s Day. I told her it was Mother’s Day. It just didn’t click in her plaque infested brain.
I knew placing her on that day or any day would be tough. I knew I would have to lie to her. I knew I would probably have to wander away while she was distracted by the staff. I knew she would be upset. I knew she would yell. I knew it would be incredibly difficult. Maybe the hardest day of all of our lives.
What I was not prepared for, and what is branded in my brain is that moment when my father took her hand in his as we walked into the facility—Dave and Margo never held hands; in all my 32 years I cannot recall a single hand-holding moment—followed by that awful second when she finally realized her room was filled with family photos and her favorite dresses. I can’t even begin to describe the look of horror and confusion on her face. “I want to go home now. Let’s go. Where is the fruits?”
Talk about a Come-to-Jesus moment.
She was sitting on her bed when she looked over to the nightstand and saw photographs of me and her sister. “Why are these here? These are mine. That’s my mother and mihijta. Why are they here?” My mom took the photos and wrapped them in the long sleeve shirt she was wearing. Then, she carefully placed her framed photos in her purse. Next, she saw her dresses hanging in the closet. “These are mine. This is my…” She took them out of the closet and walked out the door. My dad sat on the bed. He looked so tired and sad. Defeated. Exhausted. Pale. Drained of life.
After she came back into the room, I was trying to convince her that this is what the doctor wanted. That this would be good for her and that the staff would help her feel better. “Mom, this is only for a little while… just until I come back from New York (a lie) in two weeks. Yes, yes. I’m going to see my ex husband (her word for my ex boyfriend) and get back together (a lie).” She was happy about that story line. It was the only time she smiled. She prays for that particular scenario to come true. Still, despite my efforts, she wasn’t sold on staying. “No. No. No. I have to go home and feed my fruits. No. I can’t stay here. I have no idea how to go home. I have to feed my fruits.”
As I showed her more of the room and the lipstick I bought her (she carefully applied it to her chin and lips), my dad walked away. My turn. When she realized he was gone, “Davo, my Davo, where is my Davo???? DAVO!!” the staff took her down one hallway to look for him and I was taken down another hallway and out of the home.
I went home that afternoon and worked in my half-dead garden. My dad called me to check in. He was shaken. He quickly got off the phone when his voice cracked… he was on the verge of crying. I called him later that day and he sounded a little better, not much. It’s been two days and I haven’t cried.
I can’t feel much of anything. I don’t feel sad. I don’t feel happy. I just am.
I play my part in this world. Right now, I have several roles: daughter, wife, husband, decision-maker, and therapist.
Dementia doesn’t just change your loved one. It changes YOU. But not just the course of your life, it alters your DNA. I am not the person I was four months ago. I am not the person I was six, nine or 12 months ago. And this latest experience has so profoundly changed me. Today, on this fine Tuesday morning, I don’t even recognize myself.
Every cell has been altered.
I am a different person.