It was quite a week end for roller coaster emotions.
Actually it started last weekend, when I reviewed the show Shadow Box, about 3 dying patients, one of whom was an old woman with dementia and her daughter, who was her primary care giver. I found I was most taken with the actress who played the daughter. As I watched her caring for her mother, my overriding thought was that surely in the actress’ real life she deals with someone with dementia. It wasn’t only that her acting was so strong, but her entire body — including the expression on her face — echoed the exhaustion and reluctant acceptance of what she needed to do that I hear from many caregivers of dementia victims and often feel myself.
Then Jeri came to town and I took a couple of days off from Atria. Jeri and Alice Nan had lunch with my mother the first day, Jeri went back for lunch the second day, and Walt, Jeri and I all went to spend some time with her on Friday.
I asked Jeri later what her perception of her grandmother was, since it had been so many months since she had last seen her. I have no concept of whether she is worse or not, because I see her so often. When I see her so often, some days she seems so much worse than others. Jeri said that she seemed about the same to her, which was some comfort.
This week I felt she was more vague than usual. The most frequent topic of conversation was Jeri's hair. She recently had her long hair cut off with an organization that makes wigs for children with cancer. She did this once before, but I guess maybe they didn't take off as much or we didn't see her for a long time afterwards. Anyway, this was the shortest I'd seen her hair since she was a child. For my mother it was a huge shock, so much so that whenever she was looking at something else and then looked back at Jeri, it was like she was seeing her for the first time. When did she cut her hair? Why did she cut her hair? and then the reaction -- either it was cute, or she looked terrible and once she didn't want to be seen in public with her (the same kind of reaction she had to my shaving my head last year). Mostly she decided it was cute, but then minutes later, it was a whole new thing again. Once at lunch she started looking at Jeri and said "there's something different about you. I can't figure it out." "Is it because I cut my hair?" Jeri asked. "Oh yes," she said and then asked the when and why questions again.
I told Jeri I was impressed with how patient she was with her grandmother and she admitted that the repetitions would even get to her if she saw her as often as I did.
Then Saturday night Walt and I went to a show called Blackberry Winter, which is a one-woman show about a middle aged woman who is dealing with her mother, who has dementia. Vivienne is powerful, funny, sarcastic, emotional, a bit vulgar (but not much) and so perfectly embodies the jumbled emotions of someone who is dealing with a much loved mother who just isn’t the mother she remembers that this show will resonate with anyone in a similar situation. "I don’t drink; but lately I’ve become jealous of people who do," she says, not entirely joking. It was a tour de force and there were times when I felt it could be me up on that stage saying those same things.
But we ended the week with a show called [title of show] . It's a show about two guys writing a show about two guys writing a show I loved it. Lots of hummable tunes, lots of funny stuff, a very likeable cast and just a feel good evening .. and nobody mentioned the word "dementia" once