A Hug & A Rag… or Another Behavior

I love my mom. Might be hard to understand the range of emotions that go along with this disease—love, hate, contempt, resentment, humor, respect, disgust, horror, sadness, grief, sympathy, compassion—a roller coaster to say the least.

That’s why I blog.

I write so I can hopefully look back one day and make some sense of it all because this—this situation—is not how our lives were supposed to play out. Watching your mom deteriorate in such an inhumane way is not normal…………………………………. of course, there are moments…… sweet, touching moments where I’m really taken aback by who she is, what she’s become and how at her very core, she’s still such a lovely person. This disease does something to the brain—it strips it of all our masks. You’re no longer playing roles, pretending to be a character in the play of life—you are raw, grotesque, and what you see is what you get to the very core. Your essence is revealed and there’s no covering it up. No more hiding. You have no control. So while, I may think about the day my mom dies, I also think about how long it will take me to recover from her passing. You see, I will miss my mom. My mom’s sweet. She’s kind. She wants to be in the middle of everything………… mixing and mingling……………….the hostess…….. I saw a glimmer of her heart just the other Sunday.

A good thing because it’s so easy to lose sight of the positive.

Our neighbor came over and while I had no idea who she was, my mom immediately went over and kissed her…. “Hola, I luf you. I don’t speak English (in English), but I luf you, you’re so beautiful.” I was touched. I almost cried. Her genuine emotion and joy at seeing this woman was truly remarkable. Pure sweetness. Pure heart. You don’t see that sort of honesty in life anymore…….. and then I understand where I get my own lovey-dovey ways with those close to me. I am my mother’s daughter.

But with dementia, there’s the flip side……… and then there’s the rag……… a new behavior, actually. Here’s where I go from tender thoughts….. to having to walk away. My mom, in her usual TMI sort of way, told me that she had to pee (she does this by touching herself)… I scooted her along to the bathroom and then she opened a drawer to pull out a washcloth……….. confusion. What is she doing with that? She tells me in a mix of Spanish and words that make no sense unless you speak fluent dementia like myself that she’s using it to wipe herself.

“She uses that now to wipe,” said my dad who was sitting on the edge of the bed. “I don’t know when it started, but now I have to take it and wash it… she gets bent out of shape when I take them away.”

“She’s never done that before,” I said.

“Yeah, well she never used to do a lot of things….” he replied.

He looks exhausted.

She wipes herself with a washcloth and puts it back………………. I had to walk away. There’s always something with her, with this disease…………………. where she goes from incredibly sweet to vividly grotesque in an instant.

I don’t understand how her mind works. She doesn’t know my name, but she knows where I came from—she points to her belly and tells me that I came out of her.

I guess childbirth is the kind of pain that really does stick with you despite the mess of plaques and tangles and whatever else is gnawing at her cortex.

I don’t know. I really don’t know what to make of it all at the end of the day. This blog is a record of my experience and these are the moments that I see and capture…………………… my words are like a camera.

I don’t want to remember my mom as the woman who wipes with washcloth, so I try to temper it with her sweetness, her heart……. she’s there……..

Margarita Ritchie. Mom. Wife. Sister. Aunt. Cousin. Daughter. I think of her mother……. my grandmother…….. and I often wonder if she’s in heaven crying for her baby girl…………. just trying to reach out and hold her from beyond…. to comfort her daughter; to let her know that she’s safe and nothing can hurt her.

When I go deep into that place. I cry.

My heart bleeds for her.


1 Comment

  1. Two years ago right now – I was in the thick of things that I didn’t know were leading us up to the final month. I thought about that last night as I sat outside and listened to the cicadas and remembered listening to them while sleeping on the couch for those weeks at my folks. But it’s been a long time since I’ve thought about watching my dad lick all the silverware he’d use for every meal and put it back in the drawer, till I read this. I remember my thoughts being similar to yours…”how can this be? He’d NEVER do that and we would have gotten a good whack if we’d have EVER tried that.” I can smile remembering some of those tender, funny last days and I can also dissolve into tears wishing for the dad I knew that ceased to be years before he actually stopped breathing. I just want you to know that as often as I think of my dad throughout the day…(and that is often) – it is accompanied by thoughts of you and sending you my best “energy” to hang tight. You won’t regret this…I promise.

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