My mom is sick. When I found out, I rush drove up from San Francisco to Oregon on Friday. What had happened was she had fallen and was confused and slurring her words. An ambulance took her to the hospital. When I got there the hospital staff told me she has dementia. I was surprised. The doctor said it was common that parents can sometimes compensate their symptoms when around their children.
It’s been hard on me to see my mom this way. She’s experiencing delirium. I was told to not correct her when she tells me her hallucination experiences. It was hard at first. But then I went along with it. She kept talking about a white ribbon on a Christmas decoration on the wall outside her room. That part was true. What wasn’t was she was anxious the ribbon was out to get her and that it would kill her that night. I said I would fix it. I went out into the hallway and took the ribbon down. I showed her that I’d done this and then threw it into the trash so she could see it was gone. She was relieved and smiled and said she would live.
I’ve had to let go of the previous image that I had of my mom. I still love her. But I’m accepting that she’s changed and can’t take care of herself or me. She might have some lucidity here and there, or not. There’s been a significant and pervasive loss of her brain tissue. It breaks my heart in a lot of ways. It hurt so much I thought of drinking a bottle of whiskey. I don’t drink, and I didn’t get the whiskey. The pain is strong sometimes, and sometimes there’s a strange kind of peace. And the in-betweens.
I want to continue to be there for her. The hospital staff told me when I come in to visit her, she relaxes and perks up. My presence doesn’t stop the delirium, but I seem to give her some relief. I brought in some items from her home to help her feel some familiarity. In the next few days I hope to find her a local place for long-term care. She has long-term health care insurance so I hope to find her a good place.
I wrote recently it’s impossible not to be hurt in life. What helps me through this is to not deny the pain. It’s part of the platter of my life. My dad died a year and a half ago and that certainly hurt. But that’s because I loved my dad like I love my mom. Because I feel love, I’m gonna feel the opposite. I’d rather have both than none.
My mom is resting in the picture up top. She was sitting on a lazy-boy chair with a red blanket the hospital gave her on Christmas day. In the background you can see the blue wrapping paper on the wall, without the scary ribbon.