31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 23 — Being Honest

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I took my mama off campus for lunch this week, the first time in many weeks I’ve been able to do that. She has tired more easily and so have I, so we’ve settled into the routine of putting her into the smallest of her unit’s wheel chairs and slowly walking over to the charming cafe that is now a part of her retirement community. 

But the weather was glorious, and if El Nino comes to pass, it will not long be that way (thanks be to God! We SO need the rain!), so we went. 

And it was lovely, and sad, and good, and hard. One thing I’ve committed to doing, even though many dementia experts discourage it, is telling my mom the truth. Unlike Dick’s mom, my mother knows that things are not right inside her head, and occasionally — if we’ve sat together quietly long enough, she will ask me about it

And I always tell her the truth.

“How come I don’t remember that you are my daughter? How come I don’t remember being married? How come? Why can’t I think?”

So I tell her.

“Well, Mom, it’s nothing you’ve done, it’s just something that happens sometimes when brains get old. Yours doesn’t work like it once did, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t still you. And I’m here. I can be your memory for you, okay?”

And she is always relieved. Yes, I still get the same, question-of-the-day-whatever-it-might-happen-to-be from her, but she is calmer, steadier, more restful when we’ve talked about this situation as honestly as we can, given her limitations now and my own inarticulate attempts to explain the unexplainable.

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She is so very dear. And so very lovely. And I love her so very much. Yesterday, she asked, “Was I a good mother to you?” And I was moved to tears to tell her how very good a mother she was, to me and to my brothers. 

“Brothers? I have a son?”

“Yes, Mom, you have one son still living.”

“Oh, I’d love to see him.”

I remind her that he calls her on the phone, that he lives very far away and that he’s dealing with some health issues of his own. And she is peaceful.

In ten minutes (or less) she will have forgotten all about it.

Yesterday’s through line question centered around being sure she had my phone number. I told that she does, and when we got her back to her room, I showed her where it is. Of course, she can no longer read it, can no longer use the phone herself. But telling her the truth somehow eases her dis-ease. And if I can do that, then I am happy to be her truth-teller.

It dawned on me the other day that I am currently the only person in her life who sees my mother.  Who sees her for ALL of who she is, who she is now, and who she once was. I’m it. And that makes me feel more lonely than I could have imagined.

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Comments

  1. It is the truth that sets us free, is it not? I can’t imagine not telling the truth no matter if it rings true or not to your mom… Only God knows the impact in the hidden places. My heart goes out to you my friend. There’s some comfort for me as I think about the journey before me with my mother that I am not traveling alone… and neither are you.

    • So true, Dea. We do not travel alone. LOVE that sentence — “Only God knows the impact in hidden places.” Thank you.

      • christine says:

        “the hidden places” … I wonder how much we miss the power of the Holy Spirit in the hidden places.

        I hadn’t thought of the connection before, but isn’t God still at work in us when we sleep and are not aware? And I know of families with children on the Autism spectrum who are non verbal but clearly are loved by God – wouldn’t he be at work in their lives though they can’t tell us about it? So our loving, omniscient God, who is so different from us, can clearly be with your mom and at work in her life in ways we are not able to grasp.

        I hope God is like this – at work in the world and in our beloveds in ways that are hidden from us. It requires trust and hope. I can’t wait for the day when, instead of seeing through a glass darkly, we will see face to face.

  2. You are so sweet to your mother. I was touched by your words saying that you may be the only person who sees your mother. Really sees who she is and was. God bless you.

  3. christine says:

    I am glad you share about your mother here – in a very small way, it means we see her too.

  4. Reading your words here brought me to tears, Diana. Seeing my father slowly dying with Alzheimer’s broke my heart, and my thoughts and prayers are with you and your mother. You are honoring her in the best possible way you can. You have my admiration, my friend.
    Blessings always!

    • Thank you, Martha. This disease is just wretched. We’ve lost all of our parents to one form or other of dementia. My mom is the last one left. Thanks for your faithful reading and commenting.

  5. Pam green says:

    Dear Diana, your time with your mom is so precious ,hard and difficult but so loving.

    I wish I lived closer to share some of that time with you. I miss her. She wouldn’t have a clue who I am but I could see her sweet face. Please give her hugs and kisses for me