I got a call from Jeanne yesterday while I was working. I work at home now, which is one change from the last time Wiggles and I were blogging. Jeanne was calling from the nursing home where she and Bob are now living. The nursing home is another change since you’ve heard from the StarkRavers. Since then, Jeanne’s dementia has intensified (we refer to it in front of her as “memory issues,” but let’s face it, people. It’s dementia.) Or maybe it was getting bad anyway, but we didn’t notice it.
Hang on, I’m having a hot flash. It’s 30 degrees out, but I just yanked the window in my office open a little bit more. Ahhhh.
Jeanne sounded really chipper on the phone. She was cheerful and to the point as she said to me, “I need you to arrange for me to go home for a few days.”
Home? There is no home for her to go to. When they moved into the nursing home, we got rid of everything in their apartment. Her fake furs? To their caregivers. Her piano? To a music school. Her dozens of pillows, vases, urns, and art from Home Goods? Into the dumpster. Much of their good silverware? Wedged into the back pockets of the building superintendent’s jeans.
In short, there is no home to go to. But Jeanne didn’t remember that.
“Mah, you gave up the apartment, remember?”I stuttered. “when Daddy got sick and you ran out of money?”
“Who made THAT decision?” she asked.
There was no real answer, really. So I just said, “Oh, Mah.” Maybe I should have told her that we could discuss it the next week, or after Christmas, or some other time in the future. But I was caught by such surprise that I told her a little bit, just a sip, of the truth.
The blessing of Jeanne’s dementia is that she probably forgot about that conversation 20 minutes after it happened. But me? I was flayed by it for the whole day.
I felt terrible for her over her disappointment and confusion. I also felt terrible for the now-familiar wave of the nasty disorientation that comes when adult children become the parental figures.
So Jeanne can’t go home for a few days, in the way she would like. But here’s what she can have:
1. She can enjoy a good movie on TV (i.e., anything with Meryl Streep or Adam Sandler. Should they ever work together, Jeanne would wriggle with delight while wearing the purple quilted jacket that she bought from HSN. “It’s one of a kind!” she said to me the day she thought the nursing home’s laundry had lost it).
2. She can chomp down a bagel with whitefish salad on the top and cream cheese on the bottom, accompanied by an iced coffee with Splenda.
3. She can have a fresh manicure.
4. She can indulge in Face Time, which I have introduced her to so she can see the expressions of her children and grandchildren who live in other cities when she speaks to them.
These smaller pleasures will have to suffice, as time unfolds and I lose more and more of my beloved mother.