I recently mentioned the passing of Eleanor, a life long friend of my mom’s (68 years of life shared). Toward the end, Eleanor living alone, lapsed into dementia and turned on my mom. My mom could not fathom this change and the intricacies of dementia were lost on my mom and she backed away trying to figure out what she had done wrong.
As I learned today, she did this across the board with the rest of her family. She ended up alone. And, unbeknownst to me, she started accumulating stuff. The family told me today that three pictures were in her living room: her departed husband (1997), a picture of my mom and dad from the 1940’s and a picture of me in a uniform some 40 years ago on her fireplace mantle. Yet, this little angel of a lady sat alone in her increasingly jammed home and struggled with dementia.
It broke my heart today. I could picture my mom sitting in a hoarding mess across town from her girl friend in another hoarding mess and because of dementia, confusion, pride, stubbornness…..they both passed without the other knowing.
On a slightly brighter note, I learned that when Eleanor was a young woman, about the time she met my mom, Eleanor was a welder in the ship yards. Not an ordinary welder though. Because she was short (5′) and petite (100#) she was given the task of crawling up into the smallest of spaces in a ship and welding in very confined, awkward and dangerous locations. She did that job for 33 months during WWII. These young women were fiercely tough, all there lives. Goodbye sweet Eleanor. Say hello to my mom.
Keeping in mind my frequent self admonishments to take one day at a time and roll with the punches, I sat beside my aunt last night who was about 90% lucid and tracking well. She was laughing to such a degree I wondered if she were tipsy. The recent introduction of Seroquel and the removal of drugs like Depakote, Lorazepam and Zoloft over the last year may have, I say this with the qualification….may have…introduced some calm to the situation.
The night before she was in a good mood but not tracking well..grasping if you recall to form thoughts. Last night she was freakishly alert and asked questions regarding excellent recall. Interesting: if you appeared for weeks to be stuporous, confused, agitated and hallucinating then how do you pull a recollection from that mess and produce a coherent series of questions? My surgery. She has been pretty oblivious to the whole process regarding my surgery, yet last night she said…’you know I keep forgetting to ask you, but now that I have you here, how is your back doing after that surgery?’ That is my aunt of old, who always asked after you and never complained about herself. This was an enjoyable evening.
At one point she momentarily lapsed from perfect clarity to ask why her sister had not spoken to her as long as she had bothered to drop by the house. The sister has been dead for 25 years. I said, ‘now what did you just ask?’ My aunt stared ahead and self corrected…I didn’t have to proceed…she said ‘because she wasn’t here was she….?’ Amazing this whole process of medications and trying to fine tune brain chemistry. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, but for a few hours it was a blessing.