Wanna hear something funny? My mother is losing her mind. Oh Sorry, that’s not the funny part. The funny part is that the more I experience her mind slipping away, the more I realize mine is slipping away too.
It could be that when I am around her the assuring positive way in which she commits to what she believes to be true is so often adamantly proposed that I find myself doubting what I really know. The other day my sister, Jeannie, messaged me while I was sitting at my computer to say,
“John, was Paige with you when you came to visit last week? Mom thinks Paige was with you?”
And I found myself asking myself, “Was she?”
Even though I knew she wasn’t. At the time my girlfriend Paige wasn’t even in the same country. But was she there?
I know my mom. She raised me. She is the one who raised all 5 of us by herself. It made her a bit crazy, but in a way that was grounded, solid. She kept us alive. There must be a logic to her recollection. I can’t believe it was based in nothing. She experienced something.
So with my fingers frozen on the computer keyboard, I made myself recall that day, all that we had talked about… saving the world, Japan, the history of my friendships, video games… Then, I took my fingers off the keyboard and said, out loud, to myself, “Oh, Paige WAS kinda’ there.” I realized that my mother and I had been talking about Paige, about her growing fame in the video game community. I showed Mom a video on youtube, and at that exact moment, Paige called me on the phone, and I relayed questions and answers back and forth between them. "Ah, she was there."
I put my fingers back on the keyboard and typed to my sister, “Well it is more complicated than if she was there or not.” Then I told Jeannie the information above and she said, “So Paige was there but wasn’t. I get it.”
The other funny not so funny part is that my mother is in the midst of nursing my father’s first wife who has Alzheimer’s disease. Yes, my father’s FIRST wife, my father had four wives, my mother being the second and longest. As the story goes, one day, these two divorcees, my mother and my father’s first wife, met for coffee, commiserated and became good friends. My half sister Nancy was a big part of our life, and that made that relationship easier. My half sister Nancy died during the tight grip of Alzheimers on her mother, and now this mother does not even remember that her only daughter is dead. My mom has gone to visit her constantly and has had to make the hard decision to put her in a care facility. This ex-wife now, after months and maybe years of this, barely remembers my mother, but knows that she is the woman that has always been there for her. This woman will ask, many times over and over, “Where is Nancy?” And my mother, who hates to lie, has to tell her that she plans on coming later. But Nancy is never coming. And soon this woman will remember nothing, and then nothing will remember her.
I don’t know if you can catch dementia, actually I know you can’t, but I would like to think that maybe my mother is just tired, and if we make her sleep enough and drink enough tea, she’ll get better. She’ll become younger, and she’ll fly to Florida, alone, forget that we exist, sit on the beach in a young woman’s bikini, calm, maybe a little smile in the corner of her mouth, catching a tan; like she liked to do but never did. It’s been a hard life, she would deserve that, and that’s why it should be possible.