I really don't mean to keep harping on my mother's memory problems, but I was in much better spirits and much more patient today and this whole "losing your mind" thing, other than being tragic, is fascinating to me, from a clinical point of view. I just worked in doctors' offices for too long and saw too many medical shows throughout my life!
I don't know if she was any more forgetful than usual (though it seemed so), but it just seemed that her brain was too tired to remember anything. We sat down and started to talk, as usual, and she started looking at the pictures right across from where she sits. From what she says, I get the idea that she spends most of her non-sleeping time sitting in that chair looking at those pictures, or at the leaves overhead on the trees outside.
I had brought my iPad so I could show her a video that I found on Facebook a couple of days ago. It's sort of a commercial for my cousin Niecie's beauty salon in Petaluma, but it is mostly Niecie talking about her family and her mother and her work ethic and I thought my mother would enjoy it. But though Niecie is the only one in the family to ever visit her and had just been there two days ago, she didn't recognize her.
She had put the two pictures of Brianna and Lacie I had brought to her two days ago on the cabinet with the other pictures of Jeri, Ned and Tom she and she pointed in the direction of Lacie's new picture and said "that's a cute little girl. Who is she?" I told her and she asked whose child she was. Then she asked if Tom had any children and when I said he had two, she asked if they were boys or girls. I said they were girls and she said how nice it was that Niecie (who has never met them) got to spend so much time with them.
It was like even looking at the pictures, she could not make the connection between "those cute little girls" and which of her grandchildren was the parent.
A bit later, she walked over to the pictures, picked up the one of Lacie, checked the back to see if it had a name on it and then asked me who it was. She then said that she hasn't seen them, so she doesn't know who they are.
It's at times like this when I try to imagine what it must be like to be her and what is going on in her brain when she is in such a heavy fog.
She must have asked me 20 times what I was doing tonight. Each time I would tell her I was just going to sit home and watch TV and then she would ask me if I had to review the shows on TV. Each time I would tell her that I don't review TV shows and then she'd ask me again what I was going to do tonight and we'd have the conversation all over again. But it really seemed that her brain had just shut down and didn't feel like working today but that she had to fill the silence and that was all she could think of. That's about the best explanation I can come up with for why it was somewhat different today.
As I told Walt later, nobody really understand what it's like. Visitors come looking for the best in her, they come filled with all sorts of things to talk with her about and she is very good at filling in the gaps where she is supposed to speak (usually with "well, life goes on, whether you want it to or not" or "life is change" or "I'm getting old") so they don't see the long gaps that exist when you see her almost every day.
The problem is that I have never been a person to make small talk. I so admire my sister-in-law, who can walk into a room filled with strangers and within an hour she has talked with everyone and can tell you things about people you've known for years that you yourself didn't know. I can't do that. And Walt can't either. But my mother was more like Alice Nan. She always sparkled, was the consummate hostess, the person who could get you to reveal your secrets by asking you questions I was too polite to ask. When we would go on trips to Santa Barbara, in the days when she still traveled, she could keep the conversation going for eight hours because she just didn't want to leave a silent space.
So now I still can't make small talk, and neither can she any more, so we sit and stare at each other until she tells me she's old. She's been telling me about the new walkway outside her apartment that they put in "last week" (it was done last year) and what it was like to watch them build it. (It only took an hour, she said...it took 3 days) That's an almost daily topic of conversation.
And every time I see her she says that it's a weird day because she feels she should be doing something, but she doesn't know what. "Do you ever have days like that?" she will ask. She has them every day, but doesn't realize it.
As I say, some days I cope better than others. Earlier this week, I didn't cope well. Today I coped well, and even stayed longer than I usually do. Maybe it's because Walt and I saw a HILARIOUS show last night, Buyer and Cellar, a one man show about a guy who is hired to be the caretaker for Barbra Streisand's basement. I have never laughed so hard in my life, nor, I suspect, has the Sacramento Bee critic sitting across the aisle from me who was convulsed with laughter. If you ever get a chance to see this play, by all means do. It will make you much more pleasant to be around the next day!