The Stranger Who Came to Stay


 

 

 

 

Well, today it happened. It came without any indication. The woman who has sat in the same place on my couch, for 2 years and 3 months, told me, “I’m not your mom!” As she laughed at me like I was crazy.

I fumbled for answers to this. Wait a minute, I thought I had the solution to jog her memory. I pointed at my brother, (her first-born son) and said, “he’s your son.” She answered, “He’s not my son!”

She looked incredulous as I asked her about her other son and daughter. “They’re not my kids!” Well, I was shocked as I tried to reason with her. She told me my other brother was just some guy that helped her move into her apartment in Milwaukee.

A little while later I pointed out the massive hurricane, headed for New York. “I’ve been to New York,” She said. “I know, I took you,” I responded. “You didn’t take me!” Again, with a look amusement, she stated, “My daughter, Carrie took me.” “Mom, that’s me!” I said, unwilling to believe this was actually happening. “You’re not Carrie!,” she said.

I couldn’t tell you how odd this was to me. A combination of bewilderment, mixed with pain. As if I was holding her by a rope, across a raging river, and she was losing her grasp. “Mom!” “Stop calling me that!” she says, “I’m not your mom!”

I know, I think, if I can just remind her of my brother she lost when I was so young. I bring up his name. “That’s Kim’s son!” “Yes, mom, but she named him after your son, my brother.” “What? That’s just crazy!” At this point she tells me that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I go into the next room. There are the pictures we had just been looking at the other day. All her pictures which I had brought down from her room. I had hoped we could put them into albums and she would enjoy looking at all the memories. There is the photo album, I had put together after our trip to New York. I had taken her to see the Rockettes Christmas Show. I took my daughter as well. Here is where I will be able to help her ‘snap out of it.

I bring the album in and show her the pictures. With each picture she tells me that wasn’t my daughter and it isn’t our trip. I didn’t know what my motivation was anymore. “Am I trying to help her remember? Or am I trying to make myself forget…that she is slipping away from me.

I had taken her to her neurologist about two months ago. She had a complete personality change. Light-hearted and easy-going. Laughing constantly. She was a different person. “What happened to her?” I asked him. “Well, she’s declining, but it’s normal. At least at this point, you should be able to get her involved in a senior center with day care. She won’t fight you now.”

As sure as the sun comes up, I signed her up for two days a week, and the other personality showed up. Sharp as could be, and fighting me as she always had before. “I’m not going back to that place!” She said. “That’s a nut house!” “Oh, this is great,”I thought. Just when I thought I ‘d get a little break.

I knew something had happened, because ever since she arrived at my home, she had checked off the days on her calendar. And then she stopped. As I shared this with her doctor he said, “Is it a Mayan calendar?” I cracked up, in spite of the loss I felt.

But this is the sign that something had happened. And her doctor never shared the true diagnosis until I had him fill out the paperwork for the senior center. With a listing of Dementia, and Alzheimer’s, I was in total shock. It wasn’t as if I didn’t know something was wrong. But he had told me she had TIA’s, which he explained were mini-strokes.

“Okay,” I thought, I can live with that. As if just hearing the word mini, made everything better. No need to worry. But there is no minimizing this. As I’ve watched her slowly lose ground and I give her round the clock care, I’m at a loss for how to deal with this woman, who is now stubborn and unwilling to take part in her life. Physically hitting me and calling me names, when I’ve tried taking her to, the retreat.

Each time I mention, just getting away for a few hours, and telling her she will have some friends, so she can talk about me. That’s just not enough of a bribe for her.

Today, as I listened to her talking about her daughter, ‘Carrie,’ I had the oddest feeling. I felt as if I was prying to ask her about this daughter. I could almost see a sense of pride in her, when she talked about her. I felt as if this was, “the fly on the wall.” eavesdropping on her conversation with someone else, as she bragged about me. For the first time in my life, I felt as if she was proud of me.

Perhaps this was the Lord’s way of showing me the affection which I never received from her. To show the side of my mother which left when I was a child. There was no time for this then. Too much tragedy and I had to grow up quickly. The roles were reversed.

But now I can hear, that she really does appreciate me. Even though we are becoming strangers. And I have found some humor in it, at times. When we were going through the pictures, at one point she had said, she didn’t know me. As I struggled to convince her that I was her daughter, she stubbornly refused to accept this nonsense. I finally said, “Well, then who am I?” To which she replied, “I don’t know who you are!” And I said, “Well, then I’m going to ask you what you’re doing here, living in a stranger’s house?”

She still manages to laugh at my son. And when he came in later, I mentioned something about him being her grandson. “Oh if you say so.” she said. Unwilling to hurt the boys feelings. She just decided to let us believe this.

She told me she could get ready for bed herself. So I let her. But when I went to check on her, I asked her, “Are you okay mom?” “Yes,” she said. And I did what I always do. I bent down and gave her a kiss on the cheek and a big hug. I said, “Goodnight mom.” “Goodnight,” She said. With the sweetest smile, and then she said, “See you in the morning.”

I guess in her mind, I may be a stranger. But a familiar stranger. And in some way, it’s security to her. She’s allowing me to call her, ‘mom,’ because she is staying here. I hope her daughter, Carrie doesn’t mind.

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