Not quite the plan

on finding my groove as a 30 something single girl and caregiver for mom with dementia


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Getting to know you.

One of the reasons that I wrote about Nothusband the other day is because I have been struck Mom’s relationship with him.  In spite of having only met Nothusband while navigating rather serious memory loss, Mom has a genuine friendship with him. 

In the same way that Mom tends to remember her emotions and whether it’s a good or bad day, she knows she likes Nothusband. 

This past weekend, the three of us took an excursion to a local park to enjoy a beautiful fall day.  Mom took me aside at one point to tell me what a good husband Nothusband is.  Later she found another opportunity to make the same point.

She has clearly decided that she likes him, trusts him, looks forward to spending time with him, and approves of him as a partner for me.  How does one make these assessments — or more importantly– trust them without a reliable memory?  Perhaps Nothusband was just being nice on our Sunday outing while typically acting like a selfish pig toward me?  How would Mom know? 

And yet she knows something about the people around her.  She trusts herself on this.  Mom has opinions on her caregivers and various other people who come through her life these days.  Perhaps it is the memory of what emotions they evoke in her.  Perhaps it is more of a gut feeling.  Whatever it is, it is not her memory. 

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My husband?

For my friends who read this blog, let me start by clarifying that I have not recently acquired a husband.

Yet, in Mom’s mind, some days I have.  There is a guy friend of mine who has been coming around to dinner on occasion for quite some time so Mom has gotten to know him rather well over the past years living with me.  He and I  have recently started dating under Mom’s observation.  Just barely into our dating phase, Mom was talking to me one day and mentioned something about my husband.

Husband?!

After a moment of conversation it became clear who she was referring to and that there was no way of correcting this particular confusion.   Mom has been despairing of  finding me a good guy and is satisfied with this one.  Some days Mom seems to think we have babies as well; yesterday she asked me the name of my baby boy.  I guess wishful thinking gets especially interesting when one has dementia!

So when NotHusband came over to dinner a few weeks ago, still before even some kind of relationship defining conversation, I had to explain to him as we walked up to the house that Mom had defined our relationship for us.  I warned him of his new role or roles in my life and that Mom might be using some loaded terms to describe us.  It might be at the top of the list of most awkward conversations ever.  NotHusband asked if he had missed the invitation to his wedding.  As I said, most awkward conversation ever.

Both of my parents had a tendency toward the match-making, but this takes it to a whole new level.  Mom always used to joke that she would do a better job picking out my husband and I guess at this stage she is simply done with giving me the chance to do it myself.

 

 


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Remembering it tomorrow.

Mom doesn’t remember things tomorrow anymore.   Tonight I laid next to her in bed for a while, watching Dances with Wolves, one of her favorite movies. We struggled a bit with the subtitles but she was enjoying herself.   She thanked me for hanging out.

And then she looked over and said, I won’t remember this tomorrow.  Mom is right of course.  She won’t.

I think about that when I make time to do happy or fun things with Mom.  Does it matter when she will not remember?  Who am I doing it for?   Does it matter that I make time to have quality time with her with a certain frequency, or does it not matter as much when you forget the next day?

Regardless of whether she remembers the next day, I make time.  Connecting with Mom and making her laugh is a regular priority for me.  I cannot make the time as often as I might like to lie around making silly jokes about a movie together, but I also know that these memories matter to me.  And in the moment, I know it matters to Mom.

 


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Some of my questions today.

Why is there a bottle of shampoo on my kitchen counter?

And should I worry that it has been miscategorized as food?  

How did so many of my shirts find their way to Mom’s closet?  

And when did she develop a preference for hippy looking shirts with flowers on them?

Also, where is the glass top from the coffee table? 


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Our organized living room.

Our living room apparently is a prime spot in Mom’s need for organization. Mom always was a highly organized person and now feels an ongoing need to engage in organizing type activities.

So, when Mom gets her hands in it, mail is organized into boxes to be taped shut. Worn clothes are organized back into the drawers. Clean clothes are organized out of drawers and into neat piles on Mom’s bed.

The one that most fascinates me is the living room. It is the place that Mom most focuses her organizing energy. So many things are organized onto our coffee table: a childhood toy of mine, items from my toolbox, photos, jewelry. The living room seems to exert a strange magnetic pull over items from around the house. Sometimes bags of clean clothes drift down there out of the upstairs closets.

From my perspective, our living room feels like a place of chaos. And yet, it’s a strange ordered chaos in which items are grouped or lined up neatly. Pillows are straightened on couches. Mom seems to be able to achieve some level of micro order while the macro eludes her. I cannot help but wonder at what particular brain circuitry brings us this kind of organized chaos.


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Mascara on a good day.

Once upon a time, before caregiving took over my life, I used to make a modest effort with my appearance.  Lets be clear that I was never particularly enthusiastic about makeup but I was aware of personal presentation.  I gave some thought to clothes, jewelry, purses, hair. 

When caregiving came along, it was all too much.  A lot of days early on, I did not even look in a mirror.  I did not wear earrings for so long that it surprised me that the holes had not closed up when I finally found some to wear. 

In the last two years, I can probably count the number of times I have walked into a store that sells women’s clothing and nothing else.  Once, Mom and I passed an H&M on a walk and spontaneously decided to shop together.  Mom picked up a bunch of clothes for me in the wrong size but also picked out a necklace for me that I wear often now.  It was a lovely outing since shopping for my clothes once was a regular bonding activity for us.  On another occasion, I convinced Mom to stop at an outlet mall we were passing on a drive and similarly had a happy hour of shopping for both of us once I figured out how to manage the wrong size and style clothes that she consistently selected for me! 

But wirh these occasional exceptions, steps to take care of my own appearance are a lot lower on my list.  At some point, all my makeup expired.  Pedicures stopped happening. Where once I would have planned an outfit for a friend’s wedding weeks in advance, the last few times I have found myself wildly throwing a couple of dresses in a bag hoping that the shoes I had already packed would coordinate reasonably well.

Caregiving has taught me the limits to how many things I can juggle.  At some point, the list simply overflows. 

As I have improved my juggling skills, I have found that little bit of energy again for these kinds of steps.  Lately the daily goal is mascara and one item of jewelry before I walk out the door.  Sometimes I manage one, sometimes achieve both.  Today was a good day for mascara and I am pleased enough by that.