I’ve promised anonymity……………….. thank you for contributing to My Demented Mom. Think this piece beautifully captures the grotesque pain.
A Little Dead Inside……………………..
My couples therapist tells me that I am a little dead inside. This is her way of saying that I am living life with the volume turned down. That I am unresponsive. That I am uncaring. That I am emotionally detached and untethered from the world around me. I think my girlfriend would agree, but this is a solo session.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: relationship, year six.
If you are with someone long enough, eventually you start experiencing some calamities. If you are lucky enough, you get to turn these affairs from your crises into our crises. My lucky gal got to watch my mom get cancer, turn colors, and die like a kaleidoscope. While she was watching, she got to hear my dad tell her how awful she was for not marrying me so that my mom could live to see it, even though I hadn’t asked. This was during mom’s yellow period. Still, he made her feel bad enough that she eventually broke down and offered to get married. This was during mom’s gray period. After I said no, we eventually got to spend some quality time in my parents’ home, watching my mom slowly lose her mind from the ravages of cancer and too much morphine. This was during mom’s splotchy magenta period. Then mom died, leading to her second gray period, proving to be her final, glorious color change. My dad would later go on to say that my girlfriend never visited while my mom was dying. This may have stunted their relationship a bit. It also allowed us to live through separate crises, fracturing the shared one.
If you think I seem callous, remember: dead inside, untethered. When I recently found out my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, it just felt fitting; another swirl in a spiral that had gotten out of control a long time ago. It certainly explained a lot of erratic behavior. He has been acting more and more childlike for quite some time. See, my dad was the kind of person that everyone—and I mean everyone—just loved. Funny guy. Self-deprecating. Didn’t take life too seriously. He certainly wasn’t someone who would boss you around, say cruel things, and accuse you of abandoning him for no reason.
Which leads us to our current not-shared crisis. Start losing the people who love you the most in life and see if you don’t feel a little clingy and dramatic. One day while I was talking to my girlfriend, I decided to throw in a desperate non-sequitur about how we should get married. She said she wasn’t interested. Didn’t believe in the whole concept of one-person-for-life.
Do I believe this stuff? No. I think when nearly anyone says, “I don’t believe in marriage,” what she is really saying is, “I don’t believe in marriage to you.”
Still, I can’t really blame her. She has seen into the crystal ball of my fate, and the vision sucks. Marry this guy, and you can expect early death or young doddering frailty.
She doesn’t see the things I get to see. She doesn’t see my dad weeping, wishing he didn’t say these things to alienate her, blaming himself for what has happened. The man knows what is happening when you bring it to his attention, he just can’t help himself. She wrote him off a long time ago. She realizes he can’t be held completely accountable for what he says. But it still hurts to hear it. And she isn’t dead inside. Not even a little bit.
So now we are in therapy, at my insistence, because I want this to work.
I want very badly for my girlfriend and my father to get along. I want her to love him, to love my family, to love me. Maybe I want her to love me unconditionally, the way only parents can. I know that these are the two people who keep me from collapsing inside myself. I desperately need them. They are the proof that I am alive, that I am substantial, that I matter for something.
They both tell me that they love me. I believe them.
I’ve been where your friend is. Meeting a someone for the first time, when they already have Alzheimers. Everyone who knew and loved them, dying inside everytime they do something outside their old character. You only know the new one, it’s less painful. You sympathize for how your loved one is feeling and the pain that they’re going through, but you can never feel the connection to them. You only know how they are now. It’s a blessing and a curse.
Thank you for your bravery.