The Dementia Chronicles #8–the ongoing account of my mother and her battle with dementia and COPD.
Mom keeps turning off the dishwasher. For the last three days I’ve tried to clean the dishes that are building to max proportions in her dishwasher.
Let me back up. She was showing signs of improvement and she still is. Mom is getting stronger. She’s eating better now. Well, I need to adjust that statement… Mom eats under duress but, at least, she’s eating. She fights eating anything that is good for her.
Two nights ago, Bob grilled a beautiful filet mignon. It was so buttery and tender that it was as easy to eat as a piece of liver. We didn’t need steak knives although they were put out to dine. Knowing that Mom only eats the tiniest amounts of “real” food these days, I cut her a small portion of the steak and made a sandwich for her–a buttery, steak sandwich.
“Here you go, Ma.”
“What is it?” She grimaces whenever I bring her “real” food and this time was no different.
“It’s steak! I made a sandwich for you.”
“I don’t want it.”
“Too bad. You have to eat something other than ice cream bars and bear claws, Ma.”
She huffs out, “Okay.” And Mom takes the plate and sets it on her lap.
Mom probably hasn’t sat at a dinner table since October 2014 when my sister came with Tim and Nasif (their grandson)–that was when Tim decided it would be a good time to have a heart attack and not tell anyone. Another story entirely but, in Tim’s defense, he didn’t want to seize in front of his grandson whom he’d recently promised that they would all be safe on Nasif’s first plane trip and first time out of Arizona and away from his parents. Another story entirely.
The area around her grows daily with napkins, tissue paper, crumbs, spilled coffee, ice cream wrappers, worn clothing and bundled-up bedding. And my mind reels back when Lizz and I were required to clean our bedrooms, “or else!” And to help mom dust, do laundry, vaccuum and clean the kitchen. Mom’s apartment looks like a teenager’s whose parents never come by to check on her and who is having one continuous ice cream eating party where she leaves the TV station locked onto oldtime westerns. If I see another “cowpoke” again, it will be too soon.
She takes her first bite of the filet mignon sandwich and grimaces again. (Oh My Gosh!)
“You don’t like it? How can you not like it?” As the words pour from my lips my mind is asking, Why are you even asking her this?
“It’s awful.” She answers.
“Well, thanks. I made it myself.”
She smiles and giggles, understanding the insult.
“Holy crap, Ma. It’s filet mignon.” I say it with a perfect French accent.
“What’s filet mignon?” Her words sound like Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke.
“It’s super tender steak and VERY expensive. Eat it, or else.” Ha ha ha, Ma. I got to say or else back to you after all these years.
She smiles again.
“It’s hideous,” she says.
“It is not hideous.”
I wait on the side of the bed watching her eat. Making sure she doesn’t drop it on the floor for Teddy.
“No! Mother. He doesn’t get any. Eat.” I order her now.
She grumbles and continues taking bird-sized nibbles. And, I’m telling you, this sandwich is about the size of a Windy City Slider and she’s giving it the dining experience–gnawing off a quarter-inch bite each time she takes a bite. And it takes her fifteen minutes to finish! It would have been a two-bite dinner for me. For Mom, it’s like showering, setting out clothes (maybe even ironing–bleh), putting on an unripped pair of hose (nylons to those people born after 1975), putting on make-up, styling her hair and heading out to Chez Louis.
It takes forever.
Finally, Mom’s done.
Her face is still plastered with disgust–like I’d forced her to eat deer droppings or something.
So, this morning, when (for the third time in three days) I turned on the dishwasher, I turned to Mom and said, “Don’t open this while it’s running. You’re out of dishes.” And she said, “Okay.” I thought she got it.
Epiphanal Question: When a person with memory thinks a person with no memory “gets it,” what does that tell you? It might, sort of, tell you that the person with memory might be losing it too. Can you see that reality TV show? I can. We can call it MIND GAMES but without the minds. Sort of like all the other reality TV shows, methinks. But I digress…
Anyway, Mom is getting stronger. She is still as funny as ever. She hates her peas and won’t behave. She never cleans up her room and she refuses to take a shower.
I’m living with a five-year-old who has an incredibly wrinkly body and gray hair.
And I love it. My mom has added this extra thing to my life that I can’t quite put a word to but it’s something that, if you ever get the opportunity to do, do it. It can be frustrating and stressful at times but more often it’s loving and fun, funny and weird.
I guess if you don’t like weird, though, you might not enjoy it as much as I do.
Hold on… Wait… it’s Mom. Shh.. She’s in our laundry room. She’s getting one of my cats to come into her room with her. Audrey. She’s getting Audrey…
“This cat loves me.”
“Yes, she does.”
“What’s her name?” She asks this everytime.
“That’s right. Audrey. Audrey loves me.”
“Yes, she does, Ma.”
And I wait for her to ask the cat’s name again.