Tuesday, June 9, 2009
At the time, I was not aware of all the factors that had gone into her decision not to go. I just thought that it was the most ridiculous thing ever that she would not make the effort to come back. It made no sense to me, and I told her so. It made no sense to her brothers and sisters either, who were as confused as I was, and a couple of them told me so. I tried to plead with my Mom to come, and she just shut me down with excuses so ridiculous it was comical. "Daddy has to golf that day," she said. "Daddy has to wallpaper the bedroom." "We have to go to Costco." "I am too old to make such a long trip." "We can't afford the airfare." I was expecting "The dog ate my homework" next. But never once did she mention the "real" reason she had decided not to come, which I didn't even find out until a few weeks ago.
Truth is, my grandpa had dementia and pretty much spent his final year wasting away in misery in a nursing home. He became a very bitter, angry man late in his illness, which is a side of him I heard about but never experienced first hand. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that late in his illness (and my grandma's too) I just got so scared to see him that way, so scared that I wimped out of going to see them. Part of me didn't want to believe the horrible stories I was hearing about things he'd say to his children, and how poorly he treated them. Suspicions, accusations, just horrible, horrible things. It scared the crap out of me, because the only "Poppy" I knew (and cared to remember) was the one who would lovingly wrestle me into his lap as a kid and ask me for a "squeezer" (which was his word for a big hug).
My Mom would often tell me stories of all the horrible things she would encounter when she went to visit him and my Grandma. But she never said anything about it bothering her to me. She seemed to be well aware that it was the disease talking, and didn't seem to be taking anything too personally. I was wrong.
A few weeks ago in a chat with my Dad, he admitted to me that she didn't come back for the funeral because she was so angry with him for saying all of those horrible things during his illness. She took it all personally, and resented him, big time. She had never mentioned this in her laundry list of excuses. And had she, I think I might have at least understood a little better. It's easy to say that now, of course.
The funeral itself was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. Not because I was overwhelmingly close with my Grandpa (I loved him dearly though), but because I was so humiliated that my Mom, the oldest of the 7 children, was not there for her mother, and for her brothers and sisters. My brother and I went as overboard as we could to compensate. I was there for the entire visitation, brought tons of food, tried to do anything I could think of to show my Mom's family that even though my Mom didn't think this was important, I did. It was excrutiating to have old friends, neighbors, and distant relatives come up to me and ask "Where's Linda?" It was hard to respond with any of the lame excuses she had given me. It was all the more embarrassing because my 3 cousins from Florida ALL made the trip, regardless of the fact that it must have been a tremendous financial burden to them.
I know now that my Mom was grieving, just handling it in a much different way, and was (mentally) ill while she was trying to handle it. This event was the first big red flag that made us (me and some of our family members) take note and realize that something was wrong with Linda. Something MORE than just aging. And once again, I think deep down somewhere in that head of hers SHE realized that something was going wrong. How scary it must have been and must still be. With every passing month, week, day after that point it was clear she was headed down the same path as her parents. Even as she continues to this day to deny it (and deny her parents ever had any dementia problems at all), I'll bet somewhere in there she knows what is happening and is scared to death.
Monday, June 8, 2009
The plan was for my husband and I to go over there for the day, and Mom and I were going to sift through photos while my Dad had a chance to catch up on some emails and then he and Paul went to golf. The experience was pleasant enough, but there were a bunch of weird, off-the-wall things that happened that really made it a roller coaster for me. When I first sat down, my Mom grabbed a box containing photos of her high school years. This box had dozens of those individual senior photos of a bunch of friends. Mom sifted through them and remembered explicit details about each of these people. She particularly focused on old boyfriends, and repeated the same stories about these guys over and over. I was fascinated that she remembered so much about those people so long ago. I began to think "Geeze, maybe her memory is not as bad as we all think it is".
It was really weird. I would dig to find unusual photos and quiz her on them. Where was this house, Mom? Which bedroom was this? Who is this person? In most cases she got all the answers right. But what was really bizarre is that when it got to a certain point in time, she pretty much was clueless. We came across a picture of Bob, my son Alex's father, who died in 1999. She looked at it and said "He's such a nice guy, Sue, where is he living now?" Uhhhhh.... I was stumped. It was hard to bit my tongue, so I didn't. "Mom," I said, "Uhhhh... he's "living" in Heaven. He died in a car crash in 1999." She looked at me quizzically, said "Really, oh that's too bad." and then went on talking about something else. It was hard not to be mortified.
It was almost like after some time in the mid 1990s, the information just got all mixed up. I pulled out a family photo taken at a cookout. This was a huge group picture of (most of) her entire family (she comes from a family of 7 kids) with their kids and respective spouses, her parents, children and grandchildren. She looked all confused-like at the picture then got disgusted and tossed it aside commenting "I don't know why we would bother taking a family photo with a bunch of strangers in it." I laughed, it was quite funny actually, because there were several of us (my brother and I included) pictured with EX-spouses who were no longer in the picture. I pointed out that at the time, these people WERE family. She started to argue and say she didn't even know them. The funny thing was she would point to them one by one and say "He's the biggest jerk" or "I hate her". So while claiming to not know these "strangers", somewhere in the depths of her brain she "knew" how she was "supposed" to feel. Even while claiming to not know these people, she would remember little gossipy details about a "stranger" but not even remember their name. So weird.Another weird thing was with pictures of her parents. This is where I got really sad. Throughout my entire life, I remember my Mom having a very positive relationship with her parents. She would see them often, help them out financially here and there, and talk with them regularly on the phone. Very occasionally would I hear any complaints, but they were all just the typical griping you hear anyone say about their parents. Once her parents became ill (early 2000s) she gradually became more and more negative about her parents. More on that story in the next post (it's worthy of it's own post). Funny thing is, her parents suffered from the very same diseases (her Dad from dementia, Mom from Alzheimer's). Anyway, as we would come across the pictures of them (from any point in time), she would look at them with disgust, make a snide comment, and not talk about them at all. So sad.
At one point I made an observation that she was wearing the same dress in 3 different prom pictures, all in different years with different dates. She snarled about it that it was all because her Mom was so selfish she wouldn't ever buy her a new dress, she made her wear the same dress so that she would buy a new dress for herself. The comment was dripping in resentment and anger. I know my Grandma had a taste for nice clothes and all, but geeze, what was the big deal? I had seen the pictures before, but never had she been so mean about it.
When we sat at dinner later she was really struggling to read her menu and choose something. She knew what she wanted, but couldn't locate it on the menu, so ordered the easiest thing to find, which we all knew at the table was something she didn't like. Luckily we all could see she was struggling and not wanting to draw attention to the fact that she was confused, so we clarified her order with her verbally, that she indeed wanted the Filet, but she insisted on calling it the "Triple Combo", which was the Filet with two other items that she didn't like at all. I think it was the only paragraph she could find the word "Filet" in, so she insisted on ordering it.
Last week I had the Geek Squad out to fix my computer. The diagnosis ended up being "bad sectors". Well that, and there was way too much stuff on my computer! The technician easily fixed my bad sectors with a repair disk in a matter of minutes. He left, and all was well with my computer. I had been very stressed about the potential of losing data, and stressed that several "vital" software programs were not working for me. After awhile it kicked in that my Mom has "bad sectors" too. But her bad sectors can't be repaired, ever. What a helpless feeling. Can't call the Geek Squad to fix THIS problem. Can't "reinstall Windows" either. We're just stuck with what we've got, and we have to deal with it, and work around it, as her "system" continues to fail and more bad sectors develop to the point where the system doesn't work at all.
Argh. I am SO not ready for this.