Lost memories take strange forms. Sometimes you don’t even know what’s missing until you find clues that have long been stashed away. In recent weeks we’ve discovered things we didn’t know were gone.
During August, we began looking for the title to my mother’s car. She bought a golden #Nissan Maxima in 2000. This purchase was her last big splurge before retirement and the car had every bell and whistle. Mom drove it with pride until we had to take her keys. Emotional alarms go off when a #dementia patient must surrender driving privileges. If they can drive, they can maintain the illusion that they’re in charge of their lives. Mom felt she’d been demoted to a lower caste when she gave up control of her fast sedan. It was a difficult transition for everyone.
Getting rid of the Maxima was like losing another piece of our mother. But years of road salt and slush damaged the car’s undercarriage so it was not going to pass inspection. No dealer or junk yard would offer any trade-in value without the car’s title. So we had to sort through boxes of Mom’s neatly organized documents which were jammed into the back of a large closet.
Pieces of our lives
We searched for hours. My sister and I sifted through piles of receipts and records Mom had labeled with care. That afternoon we discovered a trove of photos we’d never seen before. We found pictures of my mom with her mother. Both of them were wearing leather coats and looking tough in a way I don’t recall. There were tiny snapshots of my older cousins during their first years in school. They looked so sweet and innocent. Today they are grandmothers. More lost memories came surging back when we found Mom’s registration log and notary equipment. I had completely forgotten that my mother was once a notary.
Some items in the giant pile made us stop and weep. Examples of her neat, precise handwriting moved me to tears. I sat on the floor of that closet and remembered her incredible efficiency. We took a moment to grieve the loss of the tiny woman who managed payrolls and corralled CEO’s. Mom was terrific in the workplace. Each time her company was purchased, the new chief executive kept our mother on as gatekeeper.
When #dementia patients reach a certain stage, it’s easy to see them as a ‘vacant room’. But the evidence of their true character is all around them. Many lost memories are hiding in plain sight. We just have to open our eyes to them.