It’s been over two years since dementia made it unsafe for Mom to live alone. After we moved her into my house, I avoided going to hers. The sight of her carefully arranged things filled me with grief. But now our family needs to rent her property to help pay for her care. Cleaning out the rooms is tough. Notes on her desk, her shoes in a row — every inch of the place bears sad reminders of the woman she once was.
The ties between us never frayed as her disease progressed. I’ve witnessed her loss of skills and — from close range — I’ve watched the transformation of her personality. With such focus on her growing frailty, I had forgotten what she was like just six or seven years ago when she still mailed birthday cards like clockwork.
Walking through her old bedroom, I cried while reading short reminders she’d written to herself. My mom was such a diligent person. She cared about small details in a way that amazes me. I’m random, energetic and impulsive. Things always get done, but I rarely plan and execute projects with her kind of precision. This was one of those personality differences that made us get annoyed with each other.
As I looked around her little office the other night, I couldn’t feel anything but admiration for the way she managed her life. She was so careful and attentive. The walls were lined with tokens of love from her many friends. Smiling photos, silly cards. It’s the stuff we can’t look away from when we sift through the remains of her life — that’s who she was.
We are so lucky that we still have her. Light shines through those eyes even as we feed her soup and comb her hair. Her love is the one thing we hold onto while the woman she was retreats to memory. Sometimes it hurts to be the steward of her past as well as my own, but it’s part of the caregiver’s job. And I guess that’s now who I am.