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I guess I am getting the cart before the horse in my story now, but today was so painful for me, that I must write about it while it is fresh. I say it was painful, but it was also joyful. I guess you could call it a bittersweet day.

When I arrived at the nursing home today, my mom was sitting on her bed, eating peanut butter crackers. She smiled a happy grin when she saw me, and said that she didn’t think I would be visiting today, but she was so glad to see me. (Right off this was sad, because I told her yesterday that I would come this afternoon, but she had forgotten entirely.)

“I have some surprises!”, I said with a mischievous grin. I ran to the car to get my gifts. There were ordinary things like Kleenex, deodorant, chap-stick, wet wipes, and a new electric toothbrush, and somewhat exciting things like a new inexpensive watch (with an expandable wrist band that is still a little large on her thin wrist), 3 new gowns, and a robe. One of the gowns was black, with a pink high-heel on the front. Underneath the shoe it said, “GLAMOROUS.”  We giggled, and  I said, “Well if you can’t wear them on your feet anymore, you can at least wear them on your gown.” (She is forever asking that I bring her shoes with heels, in spite of the fact that she has broken her foot, leg, and hip lately.) I keep saying “no”, but she keeps pressing me. I guess girls will be girls–no matter the age.

After looking at the treasures, I wheeled her over to the retirement living area, where there is a very nice atrium, with beautiful plants and lots of tables. The contrast between this part of the facility, and the nursing home part, is night and day. (We are so thankful that we have this place to run away to.)

I fixed our little picnic, complete with a white tablecloth, and a battery operated rose that lights up and changes colors, when you place it in water. I knew she would be fascinated with it.  We shared strawberries and bananas with whipped cream, and wholegrain crackers with pineapple cream cheese. It was delightful! She ate every bite on her plate. She loves any escape from the nursing home food.

We talked and visited for awhile, and then searched the phone book for a local urologist–a true bonding experience. LOL! We are hoping to find the reason for her frequent incontinence, and hopefully some help for it. Unfortunately, the medicines that help with bladder spasms cannot be used if you have glaucoma. She has glaucoma and  macular  degeneration. We are praying that perhaps there is a drug that will not adversely affect her eyes. I want to give her hope.

Now for the sad part. After visiting with my mom for several hours this afternoon, I realized that she didn’t remember anything about our talk a couple of days ago, concerning the choices we have to make about her living arrangements. I was devastated. I have been told by the staff that she doesn’t retain information, and yet I had not experienced it as poignantly as today. The relief we felt the other night (after finally  being able to discuss the options with her), evaporated this afternoon in the hall, as I pushed her wheelchair by our favorite male nurse. She greeted him, and happily called out, “I’m going home in about 3 weeks.”(Chalk up another break in my already broken heart.)

All the time we spent making sure that she understood the options was for nothing.  She understood it perfectly at the time, and made appropriate intelligent remarks, and that is what is so maddening about dementia. (She seems to retain the things we wish she wouldn’t, and forget the things we wish she would remember.) The mind is incredibly complicated when something goes wrong.

As I left the nursing home this evening, I was in a mindless place. I truly walked in a daze through the parking lot, trying to understand and grasp what I had just experienced.  As I talked with my husband from my car, I broke down. I wondered how much worse this memory loss was going to get, and how quickly it would progress. How long would she remember me? Tears filled my eyes, and I cried with occasional loud sobs. It was just too much. It is almost worse than a death, because it is a slow, painful, agonizing process, as you watch the person you love evaporate bit by bit.

On the way home, I had to go by Walmart, and pick up some of my many meds from the pharmacy. Feeling as I did, I wasn’t at all in the mood to be sociable. I was still fighting back the tears.

But an adorable, chubby-cheeked little girl walked up to her mother, who was standing in line in front of me. Her face was captivating, and she seemed filled with all the wonder and excitement of living that I have lost. I asked how old she was, and she proudly held up 4 fingers. I was surprised, because she was quite tall. Her mother shared that her 5th birthday was Saturday, and then the little girl asked her mother to show her (by counting on her fingers), just how many days that would be.

“How exciting to have a birthday so soon! That will be so much fun”, I said. (I was actually feeling a little thrill just watching her delighted face, that could not hide her sheer bliss.)

I was reminded that life goes on, in spite of where we are in it. Old people die (and sometimes young), and babies are born, and the rest of us are somewhere in between. And for all the bitterness that life can bring at times, it is also filled with simple beauty. And all the tragedies that it affords, cannot take away the inspiring moments.

I know that God made it this way, to give us a reason to go on living–to give us hope. In my better moments, I treasure this truth…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

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2 Comments

  1. Most people have open angle glaucoma. The bladder drugs are OK with this type of glaucoma. Check with your ophthalmologist as to which type she has

  2. Thanks so much for this information, and I certainly will check. Lonnette


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