In a twilight zone

On Facebook today, I saw messages from children of all ages to their mothers, wishing them a happy Mother’s Day. Several were accompanied by photos of mother and child with arms around each other and smiles on their faces. Other Facebook friends posted remembrances of their deceased mothers. I wished I could have posted something but I did not know what to say because the situation for me and my siblings is betwixt and between – our mother is alive, but she has dementia. She is in a twilight zone and in many ways, we, and our relationship with her, are also in that twilight zone.

I will not pretend that I have been close to my mother for the last fifteen to twenty years. She and my dad were wonderful parents when we are growing up and I know I was lucky  to have the wise, disciplined, and loving parenting they provided. But over the years, my mother changed emotionally and mentally and her refusal to acknowledge or seek treatment for those changes was draining. Although I spoke with, emailed, and visited her, I removed myself emotionally to avoid being sucked down with her. But however complicated my adult relationship with her has been, I would not wish what has happened to her on my worst enemy.

When my brother became her guardian a year ago, there was a faint hope that our mother would be able to move from her ‘independent with in-home care’ living situation, which had become untenable, to assisted living, but within a matter of weeks, it became clear she was not a candidate for that. Her physician and the geriatric social worker we consulted recommended a local Alzheimer’s care center. Even then, we hoped that after the initial evaluation period, she would be able to move to a unit that was more like assisted living than the unit she was admitted to, and is in now, but that was not to be.

We have learned, both from the staff and our own experience, that dementia is not reversible; that the most one can hope for is to halt it in its tracks or slow its progress. Thanks to her doctor, the line was held for a few months, but now, our mother is slipping away before our eyes. Given some of her other issues, I am not sure she and I ever would have had any kind of resolution or reconciliation in our relationship, but now there is no chance, nor will there ever be. All we can do is watch over her, make sure she is safe and well-cared for, and appreciate that for now, she usually knows who we are when we visit.

So today, my sisters and I visited her with cards and flowers and cupcakes and gave her pretty mint-green sheets for her bed. We sat around a table in the dining area, talking with her, sometimes talking around her because she zones out easily. Before we left, my brother-in-law took a photo of us three girls around her. Now I look at that photo and my heart breaks that the vibrant, intelligent, articulate woman I knew is no longer with us.

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