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Monday, August 27, 2012

Counting my Blessings

This has little to do with writing, other than reminding me just how lucky I am to have the faculties to actually be an author.

We’ve just returned to Florida having spent several months back home in Europe. Our first stop was the Isle of Wight – home to my entire family, including my 87-year-old mother. I hadn’t seen her for some months – not that she was aware of that, but I’m acutely aware of the passage of time and the things I’ve never said to her.

Mothers traditionally hold families together, often at the expense of their own aspirations. Everyone’s mum is special, and mine’s no exception. I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t active. She always had a duster in her hand, a pot simmering on the stove, a shopping list on the go – not to mention a demanding part time job looking after old people. My mum was the epitome of multi-tasking before it became fashionable.
She often came home from helping her old folks, saying how distressing it was to see them losing their marbles. Well, those weren’t her exact words, but you know what I mean. She SO didn’t want that to happen to her but none of us ever thought it would. She did everything right. Never touched alcohol, (not sure where I get it from – it certainly wasn’t through parental example!), never smoked, ate healthily and walked absolutely everywhere. Not a lot of choice about that since for most of my childhood we didn’t own a car.

She spent years nursing my father through a long illness and when he died eight years ago we thought that, at last, that Mum would get to lead her own life. But the opposite happened and her mind started to go. It seemed like she’d lost her purpose and had given up.

She’s in residential care now. We had to sell her house to pay for it, (don’t get me started on that one!). She still doesn’t like to sit about but the staff understand that and are so patient with her. They let her help clear up the tea things, (which probably means the job takes twice as long!). She found a carpet sweeper and insisted it was her job to keep the carpets clean so the staff went to the trouble to provide her with her own special sweeper with the brushes removed. It brings a tear to my eye whenever I think about that. At what point do our parents become our children?

Anyway, she was delighted to see me, once she was reminded who I was, and what my name is. Several times, when I’ve arrived unexpectedly, she’s looked up at me with vacant eyes, smiled and asked me who I am.

It’s heart-breaking and she so doesn’t deserve this. I come away counting my blessings, and dreading the future. Is this disease hereditary? What should I do to take precautions? Like her, I dread the idea of losing mental control. It’s a sobering thought.



Maureen A. Miller said...

You go through great efforts for your Mom, Wendy. And maybe she does not always understand that, but for you to cross an ocean to give her a hug, that means a lot.

On your next trip, give her a hug from me. :)

Wendy Soliman said...

I certainly will. I heard last week that she'd been caught trying to climb out of the window. She had no idea why.

Maureen A. Miller said...

Perhaps they put the Buccaneer football game on her TV.

Anne Marie Becker said...

I've wondered the same thing - how horrible would it be to lose the mental ability to write? Or would it not even bother me because I wouldn't be aware? I think it would be so much worse on the loved ones.

{Hugs} on your mother. I went through the illness (cancer) stuff with my mom last year and she passed away in January. It's been tough, but I was lucky to live in the same town with her and see her every day.

Keep on writing - I'm convinced exercising that "muscle" is just as important as keeping your body fit.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Oh, Wendy -- that is so hard to watch. Despite everything, your mom seems happy. She's got her family around her and enough gumption to try to escape through a window.

I'm with Anne Marie. Keep writing and exercising that muscle.

Wendy Soliman said...

Anne Marie, You sound as though you've been through it personally, and with your mother's illness too. It's so hard.

Marcelle, I don't think the carers know what to do when she tries to escape. Most of the inmates aren't that fit!

Alison Runham said...

Seeing our parents suddenly diminish - which is the best word I can think of when they are assaulted by a disease like cancer or forms of dementia that can quite suddenly drain them of the energy that makes them 'them' - is incredibly difficult. Been there, done that; and having moved 100 miles away just two years before my dad was diagnosed with cancer, I couldn't visit as often as I would have liked. So you have all my sympathy Wendy; it's like a little part of *us* dies, when we see our parents like that.

Wendy Soliman said...

Thanks, Alison. It is hard, and I feel guilty for not being there nearly as much as I'd like to be. sigh!

Shirley Wells said...

It's just heartbreaking to go through this, Wendy, and you have my sympathy. I went through the cancer thing with my mum when she was 58, which was far too young, and I'm so grateful that, as ill as she was, she still had her mental faculties.

I don't think there are any precautions you can take. Just keep writing and keep counting your blessings.

Rita said...

A hard, hard, thing. It happened to my mother and all her siblings. A friend who is 80 is now pretty gone. Only this month another friend in her 60s was diagnosed with early onset dementia. Neighbors across the street are in their 80s travel frequently and party with the best of them. The say they their very active sex life (TMI) keeps them young. Who knows?

Toni Anderson said...

(((Wendy))) so sad. I think it's probably worse for you than for her. Very difficult when you live far away too.

JB Lynn said...

I'm so sorry you have to go through this, Wendy. Perhaps your greatest blessing is that you grew up with a wonderful mother? Even time and the ravages of disease can't take that away.

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