Mom might not remember much about holidays, but the one thing she does remember is birthdays. Somehow, she can remember everyone's birthday and she always has a card ready for the birthday person weeks, sometimes even months, before their special day. I know it really brings a smile to our family member's faces when mom has a card for them on their birthdays.
Yesterday I had the fun job of taking mom to the Dollar Tree to stock up on her birthday cards FOR THE YEAR. When dad asked me if I would do it, I didn't think it was any big deal. I told him to tell her to be ready a little bit early (10:15) so we would have time to walk up there, since she is obsessed with walking wherever she wants to go.
I arrived at mom's house at 10:00 and she had barely gotten out of the shower. By the time she was ready to go it was 10:45 and we didn't really have time to walk up there and back, seeing how I have to get my son from Kindergarten at noon. But mom was insistent that she walk at least a portion of the way. So I let her walk up to the corner of the street, where she then got in my car and drove the rest of the way to the Dollar Tree.
Once at the Dollar Tree, mom went straight to the aisle of cards, her birthday/anniversary list in hand. She had her list categorized by each month, with each of her family member's names next to the month that their birthday fell in. On her list were kids, grandkids, one childhood friend, Cheryl, one niece, all of her brothers and sisters, some of their spouses, and most of my dad's siblings (and some of their spouses). There were a few people she forgot on the list, but I noticed those are the sisters-in-law that live farther away who we rarely see. At the top of the paper she wrote down a few names to remember for anniversaries: Joe and Natalie, Jeff and Starla, Cassandra and Jeff (don't ask me why she didn't list my sister or any of her other siblings). There were nearly 30 names in all on her list.
For the next 40 minutes, mom went from one aisle of cards to the next (the men's cards and anniversary cards were on the back side of the aisle rack with the women's and valentine's cards). She went from one side to the other, going down her list one-by-one (in order), looking for a card for each person in the various card sections. I bounced between attempting to help mom and confiscating toys that my two year old would pick up and try to open from the nearby toy aisle.
"George...who's George, who did I mean here, George..." mom mumbled, studying her list intently.
"Mom, George...he's dad's brother, your brother-in-law," I explained.
We went through this a few times throughout the trip as I tried really hard to keep patient and explain who each person was (all the while rangling a restless little boy). When she really got "stuck", I picked up a card for her. Of course, it couldn't be just any card. It had to have the word "sister" or "grandson" or "brother" written on the front of the card or else it was no good. But that was her only requirement. When we made our way to "June", mom immediately searched for the "grand-daughter" section of cards. Both myself and my two siblings each have a daughter born within 4 days of eachother in June! As soon as mom found the cards with the word "grand-daughter" written across the top, she counted out three cards, without reading anymore, and put them in her basket. She didn't open a single card up to read the inside. In fact, she picked up an anniversary card for one of the couples which was intended to be from one spouse to another. When she wasn't looking I switched it out for her, ha ha.
I thought card shopping would be a piece of cake. But nothing about dementia is a piece of cake! Aside from splitting my attention between my 2-year-old and 52-year-old, mom had absolutely no concept of the time. I mentioned earlier that I had a Kindergartener to pick up from school at noon. Mom was beginning to stress me out after 40 minutes of picking out cards. Twice, she stopped to count how many cards she had...all 30 of them. And then she had to compare that to the number of names she had written on her list. Meanwhile, I was looking at my clock and letting mom know that I had to leave very soon. I was afraid she'd never finish in time!
"Mom, we need to go. I have to get Cody from school; we need to get in line..." I said, getting the same response from mom as I would have expected to get from the wall.
No matter how many times I said it, mom simply couldn't comprehend (or seem to hear) me telling her that it was time to go. By the time I got her to the line, there were five people ahead of me. Another teller finally opened up another register, and the lady in front of me (who apparently caught on to my struggle) told me to go ahead of her. I was able to get mom home and over to the school just in the nick of time to get my son from school, but talk about cutting it close! I think I'm going to have to rethink taking her out shopping on Monday mornings!