She Didn’t Recognize Me

Mom and dad popped by the house the other day to pick me up and take me to the airport. Nothing unusual. Opened the door, the ‘rents walked in, hugged dad and prepared for my mom’s usual, OVER THE TOP, HUGS AND KISSES… “I luf you! I luf you! You’re my husband! You came out of ME!” But nothing. She said hello and just looked around.

She had no idea where she was or who I was! In fact, she seemed confused.

It was surreal. I wasn’t hurt or angry. I was actually glad she was calm while I gave dad the tour of my house and showed him where the cat food was stashed.

About 20 minutes later as we got into the care she asked me if I was her daughter.

She looked at my dad, “Is that our daughter?”

Yes Margo.

“Are you our daughter?”

Yes mom.

“Mijita! OH MIJITA!! MIJITA MIJITA!”

I’m not especially surprised that she didn’t recognize me. It’s part of the disease. It’s more trippy than anything, and I can’t change how this disease progresses, nor can I take it personally. You know, I think I’m so used to this life, this shattered life—that is the nature of her disease—that nothing really phases me.

Nothing really hurts anymore.

Dear Rose,

Dear Rose,

I hope this note finds you well this fine Wednesday. Hopefully I’ve had a good day today so we can focus on this article/letter I’ve written. I started this thing last night…….. and so you know, I want to go on Facebook, but instead I’ve decided to say thank you for helping me understand myself a little more. You’ve given me an opportunity to safely confront my fears—my biggest fear being that I’ll die alone in some state hospital (yes, I tend to go overboard in the detail department and yes, my sheets are urine stained and it smells like feces). While I don’t think I’ve exactly overcome that fear, I think I’m getting to be much better at calming myself down and not taking that giant leap into a non-existent future………….. I go from 0 to 270 mph in a nano-second.

My fear of being alone, I suppose, stems from my growing up an only child—away from family, never really feeling like I belonged to a particular tribe, and now having one parent who is not a parent at all but a child, and another parent whose energy and efforts goes towards his sick wife—not his daughter. I know I’m being selfish about that, but sometimes I just miss my dad. I wish we could have lunch or just hang out, go to a movie. I don’t know.

So there are days when I just sit on my couch feeling very much alone. Other days, I wish I could go home…. well, to a home that doesn’t really exist anymore; a place where my mom and I could hang out or maybe the three of us go to dinner or lunch or whatever it is families do. My fear of dying alone and loneliness is something that shadows me. I think about it when I drive into work….. what if someone hits me. What will my dad do without me…… he doesn’t deserve that much loss. What if my plane crashes en route to Bangkok? What if I’m the last woman standing with no family to say goodbye to me as I take my last breath…………………………

Maybe I’m just numb to the idea of it trailing behind me. I have gotten better, but it’s still there.

You look at me and smile a very warm and comforting smile. You tell me in your soothing voice that where I am is exactly where I’m supposed to be. Thing is, I have no idea if I’ll truly accept the idea that where I am today is exactly where I am supposed to be. I do recite that line to myself and I have enjoyed more moments in the present (another concept or state of mind that often befuddles me) because of our gestalt talks. That sort of rhymes.

I like you Rose very much. I like that you push me to go to places in my personal history that cause me to lose my breath, to cry, to ponder, to question my actions, to hold myself accountable, to step up, to face reality—especially knowing that reality is not always my favorite place to visit. The present moment has always been a vexing place to visit……………………….

As a child, I would sit and stare out the window of my 3rd grade classroom Mrs. Toby would ramble about something silly—subtraction most likely, a skill that took me a while to get………… frankly, borrowing from the tens or hundreds is dumb—and I would stare at the field wishing that I could be taken away to another planet. Now that I’m here in Phoenix, I’m forced to live in reality. I think I like it so far. It’s strange. But perhaps it’s finally starting to suit me…………………………………

So, the point of this exercise is really to confront my other fear……………….    ……… that I am a terrible writer. That I have no talent and  anyone who may actually say something positive about my writing abilities is just being nice because they feel sorry for me.

Yep. I am really my own worst enemy because it prevents me from accomplishing the one thing I’d really LOVE to accomplish………………….. getting published in a national woman’s magazine. To share my story with the world beyond this blog.

So Rose, you wanted to see what I could write. I know I said I would write some attempt at a pitch letter to a national magazines—something that I do believe will give me great professional satisfaction should it actually get picked up (but there’s that voice inside my head going off)—but I’m not sure what the story is. Yes, my mom is the defining force in my life. The blog. My Demented Mom. The process of writing a blog to chronicle her disease/capture any memories that I might hopefully one day want to reflect upon? A changing dynamic—a tale as old as time: children who become parents and parents who spit on the floor at Target? What’s my story? I’m not even sure. I’m not even sure why a) I think I lack talent or b) I have to have that one national piece to justify my existence is a writer. The pitch letter. Ugh. Well here is how my process starts………….

Dear Editor,

And I freeze. Can’t get the words out. What do I want to say? Hand hurts. Better stop. Don’t want to injure self. Um…. well my mom is sick and I want to share my story. Because writing is good and using my words makes me feel better. She spits at church and I hate this disease. It sucks. And stuff. And like she one time pushed me down to run over to the priest. And she spits at Target. And in church and I over sanitize her hands I think with the hand sanitizer stuff. And she backwashed into the cup holding the blood of Christ. Wait, what was my point. My name is Kathy and my mom is one of 5 million Adults dying from dementia. It’s year 5 and this is my story…..

I’ll keep working on that pitch letter, Rose.

Here’s to getting past, “Um.”

>>Flickr image from Mrsraggle

Boy Meets Mom…..

I wonder……………….. I wonder…………………. I wonder……………………………………………

A new development………. I’ve met a boy. Yes, a real boy who actually doesn’t care that my mom is demented. This has always been one of my greatest fears since leaving NYC: Meeting someone who would happily, openly, lovingly accept me and my family….. my mom. For every boy I’ve met over last year, there’s one thought that immediately consumes me—will he accept her? Will he accept this part of me? Will he still want to be with me after he meets the woman who physically pushed me over so she could get to her crush, the priest?

They’ve all failed….. I simply can’t picture it. I can’t picture these men coming over to my dad’s house, sitting there calmly as she spits on the living room floor.

I think this one can hang. I hope he can hang. He knows. I’ve warned him. Maybe I should have given him a more obvious OUT.

God, will he really accept her, the behaviors?

Would I…. if the roles were reversed? Would I smile sweetly? Pretend it doesn’t bother me?

You know, I don’t know what I would do. If this had never happened to her…………….. what would I be like today?

It is what it is I guess…

So when he meets her……………………………………………………………..

Will he smile when spits on the floor? Will he be patient when she points and laughs at someone because they’re overweight? Will he pat me on the back when she looks in the mirror and starts laughing uncontrollably? Will he accept that, unlike maybe his past relationships, I don’t have a typical relationship with my parents.

I, with my dad, am her keeper.

So,the new man in life is going to meet mom next week. He knows the idea of this big meeting is making incredibly nervous, mostly because I know what she’s going to say………..

Translated for those who can’t read dementia (otherwise insert the word fruita, gatos, pajaritos for every other word)………

“Do you speak Spanish?” Fair question.

“I don’t speak English.” She will likely say this in English as she always does.

“Are you going to get married?” Woman cuts to the chase fucking pronto!

“Are you going to have babies?” Jesus, mom!! Really?

“Are you going to take care of her?” I’m 32 for Christ’s sake. Minus the fact that I can’t figure out my budget and I’m over $40+ in my checking account, I’ve made it thus far just fine!

“Do you speak Spanish because I don’t speak English” Again, spoken in English.

My manfriend is very sweet and compassionate. I think he’ll do OK. I keep saying that. I can’t help it. The spitting for me is the worst part. Every single time she does it, it kills me…….. He knows she might hack one right next to him, but he says he understands, that it’s part of the disease and her behaviors are not who she is……… who are you, dude?

Still, there’s a part of me that’s scared. Not because my mom keeps pictures of my ex-husband (not my ex husband, but she can’t remember his name and that’s how she refers to my ex boyfriend) in the house—I’ve told dad to remove. ASAP—but because what if he decides it’s just too much. Too grotesque. The never-ending burden. She’ll only get worse. There is no happy ending. What if he says, listen…….. I just want a normal girl in my life…….

Normal. Normal. Normal. Normal. Normal. Normal. Normal. Pretty. Sweet. Docile. A mom. A dad. Normal. Happy. Smiling. Laughing. Lunches. Pedicures. Normal. Normal. Normal. Normal. Scottsdale. Normal. Normal. Normal. Healthy. Normal. Normal.

I feel like damaged goods. Damaged in the sense that I know that my load is a heavy one. I don’t come with one piece of carry-on, I come with several pieces of luggage that are clearly way over the weight-limit.

I don’t know how this is going to unfold. I think he’ll be OK. I think I’ve met someone really great. Kind. Patient. Understanding. I’ll post an update. Meeting is slated for next week.

Turning the BIG 33 on Thursday. It’s been 5 years since we’ve known something was wrong. Here we are. Another chapter: Boy Meets Mom.

>>Photo from Flickr’s Creative Commons ECATONCHEIRES