My kids and grandkids are fine …
The holidays are almost here, and I find that these will be more difficult than the last. I will be with my mom for a couple of weeks in December, and it will be a quiet Christmas. She doesn’t know what Christmas is anymore, although she thinks the lighted trees are pretty. When I spoke to her by phone last night, she asked me how I’m doing, but she had no clue with whom she spoke. A couple of weeks ago when we talked she thought I was my one of my aunts, and she asked how my kids are and how my grandkids are. Maybe because both of our names start with a “B?” Who knows. For the record, I have neither kids nor grandkids. But because it’s now much more confusing and frustrating for her to be corrected, albeit gently, I simply told Mom that my kids and grandkids are fine, just fine. (Those of you who are close friends and family are allowed a giggle here — this is pretty rich considering that for most of my life I’ve been too career-driven to consider motherhood.)
But my point is that we are entering the time when these errors of memory should be seen for what they are, small things. So she doesn’t remember me. Yes, sometimes it hurts. But how much does that really matter as long as she is still ambulatory, can still talk to me and laugh at the antics of her big yellow cat? Of more importance now are things like her POA. It took months, but we finally got her doctor to write a letter stating that in his opinion she can no longer manage her legal or financial affairs. Why he was so reluctant to do so is beyond me — it’s not as if she has loads of money or a grand house that we, her kids, want to take from her. In fact, the reality is that due to her poverty and the still-sagging economy, we are faced with the question of how exactly to pay for her care as she needs more services. We do want to keep her at home for as long as possible. But how long we can do that is a big question. Not to mention that her house needs some substantial repairs in the next few months, and that, too, costs money.
I remember when we were deciding what to do about Mom’s teeth, which needed a lot of work. One dentist suggested pulling them all out and putting her in dentures. We actually considered it, wringing our hands over how to pay the thousands of dollars that would cost. Until a friend who’d gone through the same thing with her mom gently reminded me that this procedure would be a lot to bear for a woman with dementia. She said when faced with all of the decisions that went along with caring for her own mom, she finally decided that she would take them one at a time. If her mom had a tooth that hurt, she had it pulled. If another one hurt later, she would deal with that later. In other words, legal necessities such as POAs aside, she would deal with problems as they arose. To try to foresee every little issue before its time would have driven her insane. Looking back, it would have been nuts to pull Mom’s teeth. It would have required her to be anesthetized and with her diminished cognitive abilities, caring for her dentures would have been impossible, even with our help. I’m so grateful for my friend’s advice, and I’m trying to live it. My husband, whose mom is now in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s is much better at letting go of worries over things he cannot control. I have a harder time; maybe worrying goes hand in hand with my being a control freak.
I was telling someone just this morning that I am striving to live in the moment. So this year, when I’m with my mom, I’ll try to not be sad over the holidays when I recall past years. I will try to not worry so much. I will simply enjoy her company.