In the last week I have had to tell two of mom’s old friends, and colleagues, that mom has moderate dementia, offer them some examples of where mom is on her path, and then grieve with them, over the phone, while they took in the reality of their friend’s illness. Today’s conversation was particularly difficult in that mom’s friend was so clearly devastated, even as he said he’d begun to wonder some years ago due to repetitive email communications. He did not show his heartbreak via tears or crying, but by saying how sorry he was there were conversations he’d hoped to have with mom that would never now happen. How particularly difficult this disease is for the bright and articulate (he and his wife cared for his mother-in-law at home until her death from Alzheimer’s), and their families, and what a robbery it was for everyone. He then, and this somehow was the hardest part for me because I could tell how upset he was, thanked me for being there for his old friend, who he has known since before I was born. I encouraged him to write to mom, not expect an answer, but to know she would value his communication.
I spent the rest of the day in a funk. This is someone who knew my mom at her best, and has, until today, been spared the realities of her descent. Her friends and neighbors on the Island, while with affection, still talk about how needy and even annoying mom became in the few years before, and after my father died. None of us had the knowledge to fully understand what was going on with mom, and how dementia was driving her behavior. This challenging behavior is the memory we are left with. I handle it multiple times a week, right next to managing everything else in her life, which is a reminder of what the disease has reduced her to. Her friend reminded me of who I am grieving for while I take care of, and try to enjoy the company of who is here.
Another of mom’s old friends, her oldest, while living at a great distance for many years now, sees mom, and all of us (someone has to keep us in line 😉) about every other year. He’s watched the progression of mom’s decline, and while it was challenge to accept what was happening at one point, he wasn’t hit by the proverbial ‘two-by-four’ like mom’s friend I spoke with today. It’s a different sort of grieving, I think. Akin to when Tim realized he wasn’t going to make it back to our locale to see dad one last time before dad died. We all knew it was coming. But we all take those risks of getting another day’s labor done before catching a plane. It’s no one’s fault, and it teaches me to stay connected.