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29 August, 2011
I know that I am by no means unique and I know that many of you have walked this path before me, so you understand what I'm talking about, but it seems that I am losing more of my mother every day.
On both of Nora's trips to this country, we visited my mother and had dinner at her house and they got along so well. It always tickled me to watch the two of them joking together over a cocktail. When I stopped to visit my mother after my interview with Bonnie last week, I told her that Nora was dying and she was very sympathetic. But this morning when I called to tell her of Nora's death, first she didn't recognize the name, then she said "Oh yeah--she was an old lady, wasn't she? Did you ever meet her, or were you ever in Ireland?"
She doesn't have Alzheimers, but her memory is so fragmented these days that you never know what she is going to remember and what she is not going to remember. We can't have the kinds of conversations that we used to have any more. Everything has to be very much in the moment and don't expect her to remember what you told her half an hour ago. She might, but she might not.
She has always been the person who kept the conversation going. She never let empty space hang, but was always interested in everyone. She asked questions to keep someone from fading out into their own thoughts.
She still does that now and I am fascinated by her because she has developed a coping mechanism so that probably there are a lot of people who don't realize how much her memory is impaired.
I've noticed that she has a certain way of speaking to each person. With me, when she can't follow what I'm saying or can't remember what we were talking about she jokingly tells me that she's keeping out of trouble because she knows how worried I get about her getting into trouble. She will tell me that three or four times in various ways until she kind of clicks into a cog of a normal conversation again.
Jeri is so good about calling her regularly and will tell my mother all the things she's been doing lately and my mother will respond appropriately and then ask her what is going on in her life.
Ned doesn't have time to visit her frequently, but when he does, she always asks him why he never comes to see her. He's standing right there, having made the arrangements to visit her, but she has to chide him for not being there sooner.
I've seen her do that with other people too and she has developed unique ways of ending a telephone conversation if she can't keep up.
The problem is that she is so good at covering up, that I forget that she can't actually follow a complicated conversation any more and if I tell her something or describe something to her at some point when there is a lull, she will sigh and say something like "well, that's the way things go" or something similar and I realize that she hasn't really been able to follow what I'm saying at all.
Her world has narrowed so much that this memory loss doesn't really impact her daily life. Fortunately she can cook TV dinners because she can't remember how to cook anything else (and she was always such a great cook!). Her back and hip problems keep her from getting out much. Lots of people come to visit her and she can cope one on one for short periods.
Like many old people, her memory for past events, particularly things that happened in her childhood, or all the bad stuff about being married to my father is crystal clear. I can't remember a visit when we haven't talked about my father and several of the bad times. I just let her talk. It's her way of contributing to the conversation. Or the time that she brought him lunch and listened to him and laughed and laughed and thought afterwards "Nobody can make me laugh like that...but I haven't cried either."
Or she reminisces about her childhood and I like those stories even though I've heard them hundreds of time over the past five years. I laugh in all the same places because she's a good story teller and even if I've heard the story 100 times, it's still fun to hear her tell it again. I know there will come a day when she won't be able to tell those stories, and I will miss even the repetition.
But for all intents and purposes, the mother that I
could go to when I needed to talk about something happening in my life isn't there any
more and at times like this, feeling sad about Nora and wanting to talk about that, I miss
her very much.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Check the ceiling of this dining room
(For more pictures check here)