Monday, June 8, 2009

The World's Crookedest Street

For my Mom, memory lane is like the world's crookedest street. Or at least that's what it seemed like after I spent the day with her last Sunday. The plan for the day was to sift through old photos together, so that I could select my favorites for the scrapbooks that I am going to create about my Mom's life. She was excited to do that together, and I could tell she loved the attention, but it seemed weird that she never asked "why are you doing this?" It's like somewhere there in her brain she knows what is happening to her, but she continues to act as if all is well. If someone all of a sudden started gathering up pictures of me, I'd be a little suspicious.

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.

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