Thursday, December 10, 2009

You Can't Go Home Again

For those who've asked about my Mom, she's currently residing in the Assisted Living/Medical Unit of a retirement community in Waynesboro, VA (Summit Square). How's she doing? Well...

I got a letter (actually, a bundle of letters) from Mom this weekend. Her Nov. 29, 2009 missive ended with this:

"Harry (my Dad) worked in Harrisonburg (VA) last week and he did not contact me after he left Wednesday morning, he did not come home this weekend, and he has not called! Has he contacted you? What do you suggest I should do? I am so upset and I don't have any idea what to do. I don't know where he is supposedly staying or anything. Please say a prayer for me and please let me know if you hear anything from him that keeps you from feeling worried about his health or his condition or anything. And please say a prayer for me!"

Three things you need to know:

(1) Dad retired in 1983 from his job in Waynesboro, VA; he never worked in Harrisonburg. He may have gone there on business in the '50s when he was a traveling salesman for Goodyear, but he resigned from that job in 1959.

(2) Dad has never gone anywhere (except once) without either taking Mom along or contacting her at least daily.

(3) Dad died Tuesday, April 29, 2008.

My mother is 87 and has Alzheimer's Disease. Her mental status is declining rapidly, but most of the time (not always, and not entirely) she seems perfectly contented, completely in the moment, and even serene! I've since learned that this is not unusual in AD patients; in fact, about half are "pleasantly demented."

I take some comfort from this even as those things which made Mom "mom" are disappearing. I'd rather deal with this new, emergent personality than have her be totally cognizant of her deteriorating condition.

Yesterday I got a Christmas card from Mom:

I got ready to write to you tonight and realized that I had no stationery (she probably does; I bring her some on a regular basis but she misplaces things). I can and will get some during the coming week but I have none tonight to use for you or our parents (she's shifted gears for a second and thinks she's writing to one of her sisters and she's forgotten that her parents died some time ago). Such poor planning on my part and I know how disgusted mother gets when I run out of usable stationery (Grandma died in 1976). It is my own fault. I bring it on myself! (this is kind of revealing re: Mom's relationship with her mother).

Harry (again, my Dad) is away on a week's trip to Florida to a big annual meeting of the Goodyear Tire Company (see above) --in Sacramento, I think. Or is that in a western state? I pray there will be no tragedy that makes me need to get in touch with him before he gets back home at the expected time at the end of the week. But I guess I could contact the Goodyear Co. and find out where he is, couldn't I?

How was your week which has just ended? I hope it went well and in good form. I am so sorry that I was away when you came on one of your rare visits when I was away (she hasn't been anywhere). Wouldn't you know it would work out that way?

Nothing much happened to write about on my trip (again, there was no trip) but it was good to get away and I enjoyed it. Harry was busy with Goodyear meetings and such (cue my momentary WTF? reaction) but I enjoyed the time away from my usual routine (see my note about "Pleasant Dementia"). Now I am back in my little rut.

I hope that you are fine and I hope that I will be in better shape when I try to write the next time.

Where the card said "Merry Christmas" she scratched out "Christmas" and wrote in "Easter."

I'll see her on Christmas Day. She won't remember my visit (she never does), but at least I will.


Cathy VanPatten said...


At least she seems in good spirits (although how sad that she clearly misses your dad and worries that something has happened to him).

I hope you both have a lovely Christmas visit, although I know it will be poignant. Still, there are much worse things than living in the moment.

G. W. Ferguson said...

"Still, there are much worse things than living in the moment."

I remind myself daily that there is much I can learn from this.