Are you My Mother?

Years ago, when my kids were younger, I read them a book called Are You My Mother? written by P.D. Eastman.

It’s about a baby bird in search of his mother, whom he has never seen because when he hatched, she was searching for food. He finds a kitten, a hen, a dog, and a Snort. But, he can’t recognise his own mother until the end.

It’s a lovely early reader book. My middle son loved this story most of all. I still have our worn torn copy.

are you my mother

Sometimes I wonder if my mom is still my mom. She does weird things. She says weird things. Inappropriate things. Really inappropriate things. She wears weird clothes. She tries to eat weird things. She calls me weird names. And most of the time she has no idea where she is or even what century she is in.

Once she was a beauty, full of life, hopeful. (That’s me on her lap.)Marijean with three children

She raised her kids then went back to school and graduated with a Psychology degree.

Mom college graduation

Now, we joke that Mom is a troublemaker.

Last month she told my sister she had to quit her night job at the strip club. (My sister is a little too old to work at one of those. Not to mention, she never did work at one.) Mom also told us that she was going to quit her job as a police officer. (She never worked as a police officer.)

Two weeks ago she hid her toothbrush in her shoe and stuffed her pantyhose in the refrigerator.

Last week she set off the alarms at the adult day care center by trying to escape.

Last night she thought she was on a ship and kept my dad awake until 2:30 a.m.

This morning she was packing to go home. (She was at home.)

Uff da!!!

It’s difficult to recognize her as the mother I once knew. She’s the same and yet she’s a completely different person.

Watching someone you love slowly regress into someone else is hard. You are challenged by the inevitable changes. Your perception of them and of your relationship must change. Your expectations must change. Your way of communicating changes.

Double Uff da!!!

Is she still my mother?

Physiologically, yes.

But Relationally?

Relationally, at this stage of her ALZ, she’s a backward Benjamin Button. While her body is aging, her mind is reverting to that of a child. She presses our buttons. She acts out. She forgets. We have to remind ourselves that she can’t learn new things as a child can.

We may not recognize our loved ones by the way they act, especially in later stages of ALZ, but we still love them.

My sister remarked that when she left mom at daycare, she was startled by how tiny she was now. Like a little bird. A little lost bird.

Kiss someone you love today. Remind them you will love them in sickness or in health. In good times and in bad.

Love conquers all.

~~~

What’s Your Name Again?

I have a question:mark-659508_1280

If your mother thought you were someone else, would you address her as “Mom?”

Confused?

Me too.

I have two examples.

Example 1

My mom is sitting across from me on the sofa at her house.

Mom: “So, how’s your mother doing?”

Me: “Um . . . she’s fine.”

Mom: “What is her name again?”

I stammer, unsure what I should say. If I tell her the truth, she might be embarrassed. If I tell a fiblet, she might become even more confused if she suddenly remembers who she is or who I am.

I opt to tell her the truth.

Mom: “Really? That’s your mother’s name?” (She is holding her head in her hands in frustration.)

Me: “Yep.” (Suddenly I feel guilty.)

Her: “That’s really strange because that’s my name and I don’t have any kids.”

Me: (A lump is in my throat.) “Oh, that is really strange.”

At that point, I changed the subject. I didn’t want to push the issue and thereby further confuse her.

Example 2

Another evening I was sitting on the sofa. My mom was standing in front of me. My sister was walking into the living room from the kitchen.

Mom: (Looking at me.) Have you met my niece? (She motions to my sister.)

Me:  (I raise my eyebrows.) No, I don’t believe I have.

Mom: Come in here. (She gestures to my sister)  I can’t remember your name right now. It’s Barbara, right? (My sister’s name is Sharon.)

Sister: Yes. (She knows it’s just easier to go with the flow.) Hi, nice to meet you.

Me: Hi, Barbara, nice to meet you too.

Mom: Barbara, this is my friend from church. (She looks at me and laughs.) Your name is on the tip of my tongue.

What is it again?
What's Your Name Again- (2)

Me: It’s Joyce. (The name she called me one night.)

Mom: That’s right. I know you from church, right?

At this point, I am wondering if I should  reality orient her and tell her “No, I’m your daughter.”  I wonder if I should call her Mom.

I opt to call her Marijean.

Me: Yes, Marijean. It’s nice to meet your niece. (My sister and I shake hands.)

Mom doesn’t seem phased. But, ten minutes later when she begins ordering me to put away the dishes in the kitchen, she calls me by my real name and I then revert to calling her mom.

But, in the back of my mind, I am wondering if she’d be upset or confused if I called her mom during one of her “I don’t have any children” phases. I really hate  the pained look on her face when she realizes something isn’t right and it might be her.

Sometimes she asks me if all the kids are home. I ask her what kids she means. She names me and my siblings and says they are at the park and it’s time for them to come home for dinner.

Seriously, I can’t keep track. Who am I? What’s my name today? How old am I? Who is she? What’s her name today?

It’s enough to make a daughter dizzy.

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