I recently ran across a storyline in a book that put a new and beautiful perspective on my dealings with Mom as she slips further and further away.
One of the characters in the book, Beaux, went to see an old police buddy of his who he had not seen for many years and found him in a nursing home with Alzheimer's. When he got there, the friend's wife was there feeding him; his buddy thought Beaux was his own younger brother. He didn't know his wife either, and Beaux said to her: "You visit every day even though he doesn't know who you are?" She smiled, "I know who I am, and that's what counts."
What an amazing answer that was. It made me think about how I have gone over to Mom’s apartment lately to tack up colorful signs reminding her Christmas is coming and that she will be with me on that day.
When any holiday approaches, decorations and festivities at her Residence begin to buzz. Rather than this being a fun comfort for her, Mom becomes worried and anxious, i.e., “I’m confused, what’s going on? What holiday is it?” “Are we going to be together?” “Will I be at your house with the dogs?”
Although my signs answer these questions, as well as my patient answers to her repetitive phone calls, it doesn’t matter. My thinking is, however, that maybe there will be a time she reads the signs and, in that moment, give her comfort and reassurance.
At this point in Mom's life, as sad as it is, it doesn’t matter that she doesn't know Christmas from any other day. What matters is who I am in all of this. I show up every day in her life one way or another. I know my patience, acceptance, and kindness of who she is and where she is "at" with this disease are front and center, and that is what counts.
What is true for me
“I know who I am, and that’s what counts,” stands firm whether I am dealing with Mom, or everyone else, i.e., an acquaintance, JQ Public, a co-worker, family member, or friend. These individuals are held in a separate category where I sometimes ask, “Who am I around, and what are they doing to me?”
The answer could be well and good, but if my boundaries are being breached, if my patience, kindness, and acceptance are standing on the ledge, if who I am is being challenged and compromised too much, I know I can do something about it. I can bring it to the table for discussion and resolution, or if that fails, distance myself. I’m not a tree.
Whatever happens this holiday, I will be with Mom, not only for her but for who I am, whether it lasts an hour, or two or four, or minutes, the fact that I will be there, with love and kindness and patience and acceptance – I am THERE for however long it will be.
I hope this mindset helps a little bit this coming holiday. We need to take stock and acknowledge the good in ourselves, to hear these words and believe them about ourselves, not just every day, but through the holidays.