AL Thanksgiving Dinner 2018

We were at the appointed place (the piano) at the appointed time (4:15pm), and mom did not show up, as we figured would be the case. We reluctantly went up to her apartment to get her. If she’d forgotten, she put on a good show. I asked her if she was ready for dinner. She said “Yes” and had us come in. I gave her her mail, in particular an enlarged photo of my dad from the 50’s that his first wife sent to me to give to mom. Mom commented that it was very nice, but wondered who it was. When I told her it was my dad, she snapped at me, “That is NOT your father!!! Look at the hair color!!” I pointed out that it was a black & white photo taken by dad’s first-wife’s brother. Mom backed down saying, “oh, that’s nice.” I don’t think she believes it’s my father.

As we left to go downstairs, I pointed out to my DH a Post-it note on mom’s kitchen cabinet that had our initials, and the time we were supposed to meet in the community living room.

Mom hemmed and hawed a little about going into dinner, asking if we wanted to sit for a little. I reminded her we had a 4:30 seating, and we headed for the host(ess)’ podium. The hostess was showing another group to their seats, and mom, not understanding that we were not part of the group being seated, just followed along. Fortunately Sarah is good at this sort of thing. I caught her attention and asked where she’d like us to sit, and we got settled.

Dinner was really good. On top of the usual Thanksgiving fare, there was perfectly done salmon. Then there was the cheese and fruit spread! Mom actually ate the great majority of her dinner, only grumbling a little about the apple pie, which had too much cinnamon for her taste. We were seated with another resident and her son. The son was a lively conversationalist, bless him, and so the table banter was pleasant, even if the two moms had little to say. They seemed to enjoy the flow. To top everything off the GM made an appearance in his turkey suit. There is no better turkey outfit than this. The diners were delighted.

Our table-mates took their leave. My husband and I struggled to keep conversation going with mom. As soon as there was a lull, true to form, mom said, “I want to get back to the Island as soon as possible.” I said I knew she wanted to, and bounced to another topic, and another, and then my husband took up the relay for a couple of rounds. Mom repeated herself, adding that there was no reason for her to stay and that the turkey reminded her of this. I was momentarily flummoxed, not understanding how eating turkey could remind her that she wanted to return the the Island. She then unkindly launched into how the GM is resentful that she gets a family discount. I stopped her in her tracks with, “No mom, you are incorrect. Mac does not resent that you receive a discount…” (recall she claimed the previous GM said the same thing.) She continued with, “Were you there??” I said, “Where mom, what are you talking about.” She said with increasing ire, “At the meeting where he…” (She was insinuating that the GM had called her into a meeting to tell her she was a lesser resident.) I cut her off and told her we had to leave right then. I was unable to stand by and listen to her tell confabulations about people who care for her. I stood up and walked out. My husband lingered long enough to give her a hug and say it was nice to have dinner together. She plaintively looked at him and asked, “You mean you’re not coming back up to the apartment?” I do believe in the 4-6 seconds between me walking out of the dining room, and my DH offering softening words to her, she completely forgot the back and forth she and I just had.

I promised myself if mom got ugly I’d leave. Or perhaps better said, if she got to the inflection point where there was nothing I, or anyone, could say to redirect, distract, or make it better, I’d leave. That’s where things ended up.

I learned where my current ‘tipping-point’ is with my mom… I can listen to her make up shit all day about almost anything, but when she starts talking smack about other people, I need to leave. I simply cannot listen to her lie (confabulate) about other people whose motives I happen to know. She’s basically asking me to engage in her ‘fight of fancy,’ and I’m not up to it.

This leaves me wondering a lot about the risk-benefit analysis of visiting my mother. For both of our sakes…

  • Pros:
    • At community events she has family with her, just like everyone else. 
    • Mom takes great pride when I’ve brought our grandson to see her. She digs showing him off.
    • I really do want to be able to see her, and enjoy the pieces of our relationship that she can still engage with.
    • I need to see her with my own eyes from time-to-time. While the care staff are great, they haven’t known my mom for 55 years. They have vast medical knowledge, but at the most have only known my mama for 22 months, where my own tribal Spidey-sense  might detect something amiss.
  • Cons:
    • I leave unhappy and wounded.
    • The peace-of-mind I curate so carefully between visits is battered.
    • She is left confused and anxious, because she can’t remember/understand what our (inevitable)  conflict was about.
    • Mom associates me with her losses. I need to ask my dementia expert how my presence might exacerbate this for mom. Particularly given this evening’s encounter. 

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