“I don’t want to see you ever again.”
This week my mother, who is suffering from dementia and now living in a nursing home, accused me of lying and told me she did not ever want to see me again. Every day I do research and scan the internet for help and advice and comfort from others facing this same sadness in their lives. I have learned a lot, but I haven’t escaped the pain of watching a woman who once was so creative, sewing and knitting and cooking and baking, deteriorate into someone who cannot use a phone or turn on the television or find the call button to call for help when she needs it.
She is someone who now suffers from delusions, thinking her very lovely roommate is conspiring against her. She thinks the staff is against her, laughing at her, and scheming to get her into trouble. She is sick to her stomach and can’t eat or sleep. She is afraid one of the male residents will come into her room and rape her and she tries to find a way to lock her door. When darkness falls, the fears take over and she cries for hours. I am consumed by my own fear and sadness and panic at what to do to hold on to the mother I love with all my heart, the mother who took care of my sister and me as we struggled with breast cancer, never for a moment indicating to us the extent of her own fatigue and sadness.
I hate this disease. It’s taken a place alongside the cancer that took my father’s life and the breast cancer that took my sister’s life. It will soon take away my mother’s also. I try to hold on to hope and search for comfort during the holiday season. This is the first Thanksgiving I won’t share dinner with either of my daughters or host a family dinner at my house. I will go to the nursing home and sit beside my mother (who has since apologized and told me she didn’t mean what she said) while she eats a Thanksgiving dinner she doesn’t really want. I will tell her I love her, kiss the top of her head like I always do, and return home wondering how to reconfigure the holiday season to this new normal. I have a lot to be grateful for because I do still have family, my husband, mother, daughters and granddaughters, and I have a house with everything I need. I won’t go hungry or be cold during the holiday season. I will just be sad.