Friday, September 23, 2016

Waiting for the Inevitable

I went to a funeral this morning. In fact, I sang at the funeral with my sister. She was a lovely woman from our church (and the mom to one of my sister's close friends); she passed away from a stroke and she also had cancer.

As I sat there, listening to the words of affection that her children spoke, I couldn't help but to think about my mom. And the inevitable fate that awaits us. Since my mom's diagnosis, funerals haven't been the same for me. I look at things differently; I know that death is lurking around the corner. I mourn for the person whose funeral I'm attending, but I also mourn for my mom as I reflect on the emotional loss that I've gone through and anticipate the physical loss I will, in time, endure. I can't help but to think about how my mom's funeral will be. Will there be a lot of people in attendance? Who will come to honor her and to support our family? Who will give the eulogy? Will I have to speak? Will we laugh at the funny memories of Mom or will we be too stricken with grief to smile? What songs will we sing? Will I have to sing? I can't sing at my mother's funeral. Even if it was her request before she was sick. (Sorry Chris-I think you're going solo).

I feel the pain that the family members are experiencing at these funerals because I am experiencing that same pain. I have been experiencing this pain over and over for the past 4 years. I have gone through the emotional loss of my mother, but her physical presence won't allow me to move on. In a conversation with my sister the other day, I made a comment that I almost envy those who have lost their parent quickly in a stroke or accident. It isn't dragging on for an indefinite amount of time as they sit back and watch someone they love deteriorate for months or years on end; they aren't constantly wondering, month after month, year after year, is this going to be it? I'm not saying that their loss is any easier. A loss is a loss; it's hard any way it comes. But the heart cannot begin heal while it is still in battle.

I feel guilty for having these thoughts. More times than not, I don't know if I am quite ready for that physical loss yet. I don't know if I ever will be. It will be hard and it will be another kind of pain to work through. People will say to enjoy what time we have left; enjoy my moments with her. I do feel comfort in hugging her, stroking her hair, telling her that I love her, but how can I say that I enjoy watching my mom struggle and lose her abilities everyday? There is very little left of my mother. Every now and then I may get a smile out of her, but for the most part, she hardly responds to any of my interactions with her and it is another reminder of everything I've lost.

I love my mother. I love her and miss her so much it hurts. I don't know that the pain will ever go away; the battle may end but the scars will remain. But knowing that she is free from pain and from the prison of her body may be the first step to start healing from the nightmare that dementia has brought into my life.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

"Mom"-proofing the House

When my kids were little, they used to get into things that they weren't supposed to. On several occasions, each of them had gotten into my make up and rubbed it all over their faces. I remember one time, my son got into the Desitin and rubbed it all over his cheeks. Vaseline, baby powder, flour...those are just a few of the things they had fun with. One of my favorites was the time that my daughter took apart her peanut butter and jelly sandwich and smeared the insides of the sandwich all over face!

My kids have long since outgrown the phase of getting into things and rubbing it on their little faces. But my mom, on the other hand, has been obsessed with rubbing things on her face. It stems from her make-up obsession, which you can read about in a number of previous posts. Her routine has changed over time; she went from putting on make-up nicely, to wearing dark eyebrows and foundation so thick you could peel it off,to applying make-up in all the wrong places of her face. She was making such a terrible mess with all of the make-up that my dad had to phase it out, leaving her with mostly empty containers in her drawer. She no longer puts on make-up, but she does go through the motions of applying it. After I get her dressed from her shower, for example, she will grab a tube of mascara and, without opening the lid, rub the plastic tube all over her face. Sometimes she will dip a powder sponge onto the lid of her eyeshadow or loose powder and rub it on her face. The motions of putting on make-up seems to be the last ritual left that she remembers, though I don't think she understands the significance of it. She has been in the habit of rubbing something on her face, and that compulsion still lingers.

We aren't limited to make-up anymore. It is the act of rubbing something-anything- on her face that compels mom and it doesn't matter what it is. It used to be whatever she could find in her bathroom: toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shampoo, ky-jelly (we got a good laugh out of that one), lotion, diaper rash cream. Dad removed everything from her bathroom in an effort to stop her from putting things on her face. Not to be deterred, Mom recovered more items from the front bathroom: Dad's after shave, shaving gel, more soaps and shampoos. So, we put a childproof handle on the doorknob. Problem solved. Except that now she opens up the peanut butter containers and rubs that on her face. She got into the laundry room and found cleaners and laundry soap and started to put that on her face (Dad now keeps the laundry room locked). Her newest thing has been opening up water bottles, dumping the water onto her hands and then "applying" the water to her face. And within the past week, she has been opening up the curio cabinet, taking out a crystal bunny knick-knack, and rubbing that on her face! Luckily, Dad is able to lock the curio cabinet; we were afraid she was going to break something!

Needless to say, the house is being childproofed all over again and Mom's skin has been red, bumpy and irritated. A couple of weeks ago, it was so dry and red that it started to peel. I brought over face moisturizer and we've been using that on her face twice a day. That, and locking up everything she could possibly rub into her skin, has helped her skin to improve.

I suppose it's only a matter of time before she loses this last sense of herself that she has been grasping onto. It seems like just yesterday that she wore blue eyebrows, and now that is gone. This, too, shall pass. And when it does, it will be bittersweet.