I was of course nervous for my first visit to Mom at the facility. She had been so reluctant walking in and had always expressed opposition to the inevitable move.
But I was pleasantly surprised. Mom was in a good mood. We sat together and chatted in our usual way of some sense and some nonsense. And then, out of the blue, Mom corrected my grammar in her best imperious schoolteacher tone.
And suddenly all felt right with the world. Mom was herself, we were connecting and we were both okay.
It amazes me these glimpses of Mom as she always was. She is still herself underneath all the messiness in her brain.
But to update, now it has been a couple of weeks and things are good. Mom has some particular buddies at the facility. She knows which room is hers. And one tired daughter gets to go out at night again!
I put Mom to bed almost every night. On occasion, she heads there herself. Every now and then, someone other than me does the tucking in. But for most of the past couple of years, it has been me. When she lets me, I help her into pajamas. I pull back the covers, take off her glasses and set them on the dresser.
Tonight she was exhausted and before I could pull back the covers, she lay down on top of the bed. The wrong side of the bed. Everything in me recoiled at the sight of Mom on the left side inside of the right side where she belongs.
Mom has slept on the right side of the bed, well, always. My dad had the left and Mom had the right. This was true through various houses and room arrangements. And I have watched her maintain her side clearly over the past couple of years, even with no one sleeping on the other side of the bed next to her.
Until tonight. When she lay down to go to sleep on the wrong side of the bed. I wanted to move her and yet, nothing about that would make sense– other than it fixing for a moment my need to keep things the same that they have always been.
But things are not the same. As of today, Mom does not remember a habit of at 45 years.
So, I am taking my Mom on a trip to a national park for a weekend in April. It honestly is more for me than for her because I enjoy nature time a lot and do not get enough of it, especially in this caregiving life of mine. And It has also just been a long winter and I thought a weekend in Spring to hopefully see some things starting to bloom would be lovely for both of us.
In response to talking about this trip, Mom told me, “I am outdoorsy.”
To fully understand the I-just-entered-the-twilight-zone nature of this statement, it is important to understand how non-outdoorsy my mother is. She is not outdoorsy. I am her slightly suspect daughter who finds appeal in things like camping and dirt. I will never forget coming home from a multiday camping trip in the 7th grade in which I peeled off my dirty socks with glee as Mom watched in horror. Mom does not hike or camp. For Mom, a picnic on the beach involves a carefully set up picnic table well off the sand.
I cannot help but wonder what is happening in her brain to bring her to the moment of this outdoorsy idea. Does memory loss extend to personality characteristics? Can one forget your lifetime preferences and choices? For a while when we were discussing possible dinner options Mom would say things to me such as “I like cheese.” “I like pizza.” Now I wonder how much those statements were to remind herself of her own preferences.
After Mom informed me of her newly outdoorsy self, I decided to push my luck. I asked if she would go on a hike with me and received a clear affirmative response. So come this April, I will be taking my 69 year old mother on what I believe will be the first hike of her life.