Why don’t any of the Alzheimer’s books or websites prepare you for the rage? Or your helplessness and guilt when you can’t defuse it?
We’d already walked out and come back twice. I’d even called her on the phone from the privacy of the study, pretending I was somewhere else to see if I could calm her.
She stood by the door for two hours. Two hours! She tried kicking it, using a nail file, even a wet rag. She gathered things for her journey—a book, her nightgown, four bras—and put on a winter coat. She appealed to my kindness to assist her in opening it, and when I wouldn’t, cursed me and called me an imbecile and a shmuck (and worse things I won't mention). I kept telling her the door was locked until morning, that I’d take her home then but that we were staying here tonight. Nothing helped. Nothing I said seemed to make a dent in her determination to leave. She adamantly insisted that this was not her home and that she needed to go home to her parents.
I knew she was safe inside these walls. We’d locked the top lock so she couldn’t open the door even if she somehow succeeded in getting the right key in the regular lock. I had a momentary horrific image of her flinging open the large living room windows and jumping out in desperation from the 3rd floor. Then I remembered with relief that the stiff blinds would block her from doing that.
So we rode it out, her periodic pleading, her anger. She was dripping with sweat in the humid living room. I tried my own anger to forestall hers. I tried rationalizing. I put on music. I tried to busy myself so I wouldn’t see her standing there. But I heard it, that intense turning of the door handle, the rattle of the keys being slid into and out of the lock, the mumbled words flung with fear at anyone who could help. I wanted to cry seeing her standing there, feet planted by the door, her sloped back in the blue coat, sun hat sitting askew on her head.
I don’t know why she finally decided to listen. Perhaps she was just so worn out. I suggested we had to change our plans in light of the door being locked, that it was cool in her bedroom where the fan was on. I gently helped her take off the coat and wash her face in the bathroom. She was dripping with sweat. I led her to the bedroom and got her to sit with me. I fought my urge to suggest she undress and when she lay down fully clothed, I didn’t care. She kept up a patter for another few minutes then drifted off to sleep.
I have had enough of the mercurial mood swings, of having no time to myself, of her thinking of Miriam as a little girl who is lost and needs to be found (all while she’s holding my hand). I want no more of the loud chirping at every baby we see, of the same songs sung over and over and over and over, of feeling like her mother. I hate having to smile and talk at her level. I hate my bad moods and my monosyllabic sulk. I want to say goodbye to my youngest leaving for Poland, and advise my daughter on a new watch, hear the news from my oldest and his baby, and sleep in the same bed as my husband. I want my life back.
And yet…. What would I wish instead? What is the alternative? With all the pain and heartache we have now, the future is only bleaker. So I’ll take this mom, the one that fills my head with silly songs, who smiles and prattles on nonsensically, who loves to laugh and is moved beyond words by a beautiful symphony. She is filled with love for her family, and for me. When she asks how long she’s known me, I tell her all my life, from that first kiss she gave me on the day I was born. I know this.
This is hard. This is so terribly hard. I’ve lost my mom ten times over. But I can do this. I can treat her with the dignity she deserves as a sweet human being, as a beloved lost mother who lives on in my memory. For tomorrow, when she wakes, there will be no memory of this incident. We can start again with the smiles and the songs. It will be my second chance (for the nth time...).
There’s not much you can do to relieve all those churning, swirling emotions, except maybe eat ice cream (which I’m doing a lot of). As an alternative sweet treat, I fixed myself a fruit, yogurt and granola snack. Yes, this helps, too.
Fruit, Yogurt and Granola
Simple, easy, and elegant.
½ cup fresh fruit
1 container yogurt (200 grams or 8 oz)
2 Tbsp granola
Cut your favorite fruits (I used grapes, banana and melon) and place ¼ cup fruit in the bottom of a wine glass. Pour in half the yogurt (your choice of flavors), sprinkle with half the granola, and repeat.