I thought about it many times. What happens if Mom no longer knows who I am? I’d watched other families deal with this issue, read about it, and, as Mom’s dementia grew, knew in my heart that one day I might be only a person who was visiting, and not someone she knew. Perhaps she would think I was someone else because she had sometimes called me “Ruth”, the name of one of her sisters. Would she enjoy my company, or would she ask where her daughter was? Maybe it was my hair, often with bits of blonde added by my Hairdresser but now its natural dark color with some silvery highlights. Facing reality of this type all sorts of reasonings and justifications come to mind.
In my heart though, my “gut” if you will, I probably knew that she didn’t really know me. She stopped calling me by name some time ago, and in the last months of 2018, after a 9-day hospital stay in July, she didn’t have her normal big smile for me. She seemed to trust me though and as I talked to her during my several times a week visits, she recognized that we knew many of the same people when I would show her photos on my phone or talk about mutual friends.
Then, someone asked her who I was. It was Thursday night last week, about 8 p.m., in the hospital Emergency Room, a place I have come to know too well. Hubby and I walked into her room, standing each on a different side of the bed. Right away she smiled and called my hubby by name. Then hubby told her that I was there and called me by name. There was no sign of acknowledgement in her eyes. Maybe it was the illness, maybe the medicines? She was already being treated for a UTI, and X-rays showed Mom now had some Pneumonia in her left lung.
The next day we visited Mom and watched the antibiotics drip into her arm. Her vital signs were good. She talked a bit, but nothing clear. Then yesterday, a week after her admittance, when we visited Mom was sitting up in a wheelchair near the Nurses Station. A neighbor Mom has known since she was age 9, and who is now retired, was also visiting. Again, Mom lit up when she saw my hubby. She knew his name. He asked her who I was, and she didn’t know. She didn’t even indicate that she recognized my face. Hubby then asked her who her neighbor was, and she called her by the name of someone she worked with 50 years ago at a pre-school. The neighbor and the co-worker look nothing alike.
And so, it has gone on for ten days. A major setback with a new infection and the addition of new antibiotics brought new challenges. Mostly, mom slept. Then a few days ago mom would open her eyes a bit, look at me, and start to cry in broken-hearted sobs. After a while, with some prompting, she was able to say somewhat clearly “I miss”. The rest wasn’t clear. Vincent, my dad? Or, we are now wondering, was she saying my name, Victoria? This went on for two days. Then yesterday she brightened after a visit from a caregiver where she lives. Later in the day her neighbor visited, and mom managed to tell her that Ruth and James had come all the way from Mississippi to visit, or maybe she think she is in Mississippi and Ruth and James are visiting from some other place. Ruth, her sister, and James, her brother-in-law, both passed on a few years ago. Ruth had red hair, and James was much taller than my hubby. But Ruth and James it is. Even showing her photos of hubby and I with her isn’t helping her recall that I am her daughter.
Once, a year or so ago, she woke up one Sunday morning thinking I was dead. I was out of town at the time, and it wasn’t until a friend got there with her iPad and we were able to Facetime that Mom decided that I was alive.
So, now, I am Ruth. Or at least I was Ruth yesterday. Infection, antibiotics, dementia, hospital says – they all take a toll. Who knows whether I will be Victoria or Ruth today? At least mom is happy to see me, whoever I am to her, and that is a good thing, isn’t it?
Every Day Is A Good Day. VJ