Tag Archives: caregiver stories

The Life Expectancy of Emotional Ties

My mom has a hard time talking now. She utters strings of sounds that resemble words but make no sense unless you know her. Somehow, though, she still understands feelings: happy, sad, thankful. So we stick to activities that awaken emotions. Visits with old friends revive her love of life.

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This week I organized things so she could have quality time with her lifelong best friend. They met in first grade, shared teenage secrets, and learned the jitterbug in poodle skirts. They helped each other through the challenges of motherhood and marriage and never, ever lost touch. As I prepped Mom for the visit, I reminded her how they went dancing on Saturday nights and lived in the same town for many years. She smiled but had no idea who or what I was talking about.

When her friend arrived, she was thrilled just to be near her. Though Mom can’t tell stories well, she is an ardent listener. Hearing about grandchildren and holiday plans made her grin. She loved the tale of her friend sneaking all the way around her back yard just to escape the notice of her barking dog. Mom’s comments were limited to a few things she can repeat — “Oh, that’s nice” and “I like that” — but she seemed to absorb the essence of her  old pal as they sat together. The visit boosted her more than any vitamin could.

Her friend’s visit meant a lot to me, too. Some of Mom’s family members don’t want to see her because they think her condition will upset them too much. Whoa, they are missing something precious. Mom’s words and abilities are dwindling fast. This is the time to be a witness her sweetness, before dementia erases it for good.

My moments with her are like butterfly joy. Her spirit hovers, comes close, then moves on to matters I can only imagine. I know this time will end, but I wish with all my heart that butterfly season would last forever.

Memories and Mothers

Peel back the exhaustion, stress, and worry. Inside each caregiver you’ll find someone else: a child, husband or wife who gave and got love, never knowing they’d be sharing the future with dementia. Mother’s Day awakens the girl inside me whose mom looked cool in a mini dress, dancing the Jitterbug with my dad.

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On Saturday nights, she was a tiny, blonde in heels and sparkly earrings. For church on Mother’s Day, she dressed my sister and me in pink skirts that matched her own. We sat in the pew like a row of tulips, bowing and raising our heads when she did.

Spring brings many reminders of those times. It might be the pastel flowers that make me think of Easter hats. But simple celebrations made Mom happy too. There was a long patch of grass that bordered an old garage near our house. Every May that strip of land gave birth to zillions of bluebells. On the way home from school, I often stopped to pick some for my mother. Sometimes I stayed ’til my tiny fingers couldn’t pluck another flower. Then I carried them up the hill to a woman who was worried sick because I was half an hour late. Sorry, Mom, I wanted that bouquet to be big as a meadow, grand as my love. When you’re six years old, that takes a long time.

This year we had fake Mother’s Day a little early. For a Mom with dementia, a Wednesday is just like a Sunday. It was the only time my sister and I could merge our schedules to bring us all together. We took Mom out to dinner and she was quite happy. Being fed by two daughters at once made her feel like a queen.

On fake Mother’s Day, we were caregivers. Dutiful, organized, and protective while other people stared at the mashed potatoes we spooned into her mouth. But today, as I spied a patch of bluebells, I felt like her child again. Remembering the race into the kitchen, flowers in hand, wanting to make her laugh with joy.

Those days are long behind us, but I picked some bluebells for my own pleasure. They remind me that being her child was a privilege; caring for her is sometimes like that, too.