My Mom has always been one of those pragmatic types who never wasted a lot of time worrying about the deeper meaning of the universe. White is white. Black is black. Things exist, or they do not. She tends to place greater store in her ‘stuff’ than she does in people: I think it’s because her stuff is tangible. She can hold stuff, place it on display and look at it.
I have learned far more about my mother since she developed Alzheimer’s disease than I ever did when her mind was sound. Right now, Mom’s mind tends to be trapped in years gone by and – the good, the bad and the ugly – all of her past joys, sorrows, fears and anger are pouring out of her, unchecked and unfiltered. Much of it is not pretty. Many revelations have brought me and my sister to tears: things she would never have told her children she spontaneously tells her adult caregiver daughters.
I do not mind this as much as my sister, though: I have always been thirsty for my parents’ stories. And I always thought there would be time to write the stories down. Now, there is an urgency to my gathering of Mom’s recollections. As it did even before she got dementia, Mom’s mind leaps haphazardly all over the place but, unlike when her mind was sound, it is extremely difficult to bring her back to the topic once her mind has moved on. And because Mom’s preoccupation with her ‘stuff’ has become a full-fledged compulsion since she was diagnosed with dementia, so often, our conversations are frustrating, one-tracked and impossible to move on from. “What did you do with my such and such?” she will ask, doggedly remembering the ‘such-and-such’ each time we speak even as she forgets so many other things my sister and I may have told her. “Oh, please tell me you didn’t give away my (name of treasured object here)?”
So, whenever I can, whenever her mind leads her to an old memory, I collect each precious tidbit as fast as I possibly can. Like the puzzles she so enjoys working on, I store the elusive bits and pieces of her story on miscellaneous scraps of paper, in e-mails rapidly written and sent to myself or in one of the many little note books I tend to carry around, just in case a story idea gets dropped into my lap. Lately, I have noticed that Mom’s timeline is off; the years of her recollections don’t match up any more. My sister worriedly warns me it is a fool’s errand: how much of what Mom now tells me is even real?
Just like Mom’s declining mind, all the little puzzle pieces I have collected are little more than a messy jumble of interesting thoughts and ideas, all spread out over a very large table, and in no apparent order. There are so many missing pieces: names, dates, years. And some puzzle pieces do not seem to fit at all.
The story I am gathering – her story – will likely be as much fiction as reality.
And still, I just cannot stop collecting the little puzzle pieces she keeps giving me.
Patti Moore Wilson © wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com