|S.R. Karfelt.com/The Glitter Globe|
I'd been looking forward to seeing Gummy. She didn't even notice I'd been gone. Five weeks. That was a relief though. Everyone took good care of her, although she fell five times. Once for every week I was gone.
Other than some scrapes and bruises she was just fine. There's no rhyme or reason to the falls, so they're difficult to prevent. Her dementia is progressing, and she's having trouble remembering how to get into or out of the bed, or a car.
Now I mostly lift her into my Jeep. If I'm in her room with her I center her on her bed. Otherwise she sits right on the edge and slides down the blankets to the floor. It isn't far, but it's obviously to be avoided.
Today she took little baby steps down the hallway with me. I showed up with a bag of new underthings. Some of hers got ruined in memory care laundry. Someone forgot to take their lipstick out of their pocket. It happens.
As we slowly make progress down the hall she stops and looks at me.
It's getting worse.
What's getting worse, Gummy?
She tapped the side of her head.
The memory medicine isn't working?
I'm taking you to the doctor this week. We'll talk to him about it.
For a moment she looks into my eyes, standing in the middle of the hall, her expression lucid. It's times like these that dementia is at its most horrific. She knows. Even now there are times she's fully aware of the crippling loss. I look into her eyes, and it's exactly like I say in the book. It's like standing in deep water holding onto the hand of a drowning person, and unable to do a thing. Slowly, ever so slowly, I'm peeling her hand off of mine.
I know a day is coming when she won't reach for me anymore, or I won't reach for her.
Today is not that day. Today I sit in her room and use a sharpie marker to put her name into her new unmentionables. I lifted her into my Jeep and take her for ice-cream in the middle of the day. She likes butter pecan, but she reads the long list of choices. It stresses her out. She can't choose anymore. It's too much.
We sit in the hot summer sun, and Gummy eats a kid-sized cone. It runs down her arm because she can't keep up. She wore sweatpants. Most days she dresses too warm. The aides try to influence her, but she's always cold now.
After ice-cream we simply sit outside and watch the world go by. We don't talk much like we used to. Every topic is a landmine. I don't know where in time she is. I don't know what percentage of fiction is mixed in with reality.
There's no bringing her back to the real world. All I can hope for is some peace for her, wherever her mind is. So we sit quietly most of the time.
An elderly gentleman comes and sits beside her. Despite everything, she likes that. Her posture changes. She's getting hunched and tight along with weak. For a moment she sits taller, and the fog lifts from her eyes. He talks to her. He isn't a memory care patient. Gummy responds appropriately to his greeting, "Good afternoon, young lady. How are you?" For that moment it's the best thing that ever happened to her, and I'm doing some serious daughter-in-law cock-blocking without saying a word.
When he leaves he says, "I'll see you later. I'm glad I met you." Gummy briefly glows. Someone else takes his seat beside her. A woman with a Word Search Puzzle book. Gummy lights up even brighter. She's always loved those books. A stack of them used to sit beside her chair at her house, and another in the bathroom. For a moment she looks around her seat for hers.
You have some of those books upstairs in your room, Gummy.
I do? Are you sure?
I'm positive. You have a pile of pens next to them. You always do them in pen.
That's because I don't circle the word until I know for sure I've got it right.
Do you want to go upstairs and I'll find them for you?
Yes. My mouth is really dry. I saw someone with a Pepsi.
Gummy loves Pepsi. She never asks for a drink. The fact that she even mentioned one means she's extremely thirsty. It takes me a while to get her upstairs. Each step is tiny. Each turn needs supervision. Gummy doesn't remember how to get anywhere. When she first got to memory care it was like walking with an energetic bird dog. I know this because my hubby used to always have a Brittany Spaniel. They dash right, they dash left, they dash between your legs, and run in a circle. All within a three second time span. Gummy doesn't move fast anymore. But she still does the same thing in slow motion.
I herd her with about as much success as I ever did that bird dog.
Upstairs an aide brings her a brand new Word Search Puzzle book as soon as I mention it. But Gummy gets to her room and takes two sips of the Pepsi I give her, and tries to get into bed. I end up hoisting her into the middle so she doesn't fall out. I think I might have torn something really important in my left bicep. I've got to start lifting weights other than Gummy. Within moments her eyes are shut.
It's the best day in ages. As awful as this disease is, and as quickly as it's progressing, she interacted with me and other people appropriately. I climb into my scalding hot Jeep and face the blinding sun with absolute contentment. These days are treasures. They're almost gone. For Gummy this one is gone. She won't remember, but it happened just the same.