Tag Archive: Dementia

Aug 07 2013

Chronic Tonic- Prisoner Of Franklin Avenue

Originally published at VOTS

My Dad is pissed off. About what, you ask. Well, one never knows what, out of any number of things will set him off throughout the day, but, believe me, you do not want to be in his path when it happens. For instance, last week, during a seemingly innocuous discussion of Whopper Wednesday, Dad mentioned that each time we partake in this fast food festivity it cost him 25 bucks. Now, I don’t why, but for some reason a giggle managed to bubble up and escape from me. Suddenly, I found myself in the room with Joe Pesci, “What? That’s funny to you?”

“No! Nope, not at all. I wasn’t laughing at you, Dad, it was something on the computer! I can always rustle us up something here at home, we don’t even need to do Whopper Wednesday, I thought you liked it.” Oh, holy shit, that was close.

A lot of us Catholic school kids learned long ago many tricks to suppress laughter. My best bet was always to suck in slightly and bite down on the inside of my cheeks. I’ve had occasion to employ this method from time to time over the years, meetings, school plays, funerals, but I never dreamed that I’d be raw as hamburger in there at this stage of the game. It’s not just me either, it’s to the point now where I can shoot my sister a look across the table that instantly conveys: careful, you’re in danger of getting “Pesci’ed.” Yeah, it happens often enough that we’ve short-handed it.

Yes, he rants and he raves. He calls utilities and bends the ear of whatever poor shmo happens to be on the other end of the line for what seems like hours. Why isn’t it like it used to be? Why did your website change? Why is there a charge to pay by phone? Are you the same person I talked to yesterday? Damn it, what happened to customer service? Better them than me.

He runs to Home Depot to pick up epoxy. Now, this trip ought to take about a half hour at most, it’s five minutes away and he knows what he’s going for. Two hours later he is back, and there is fire in his eyes. “That fucking store doesn’t carry the two part epoxy I want! Half the people working there don’t know their ass from third base, they don’t even know how epoxy works!” This will be followed by a lecture on how epoxy works (we know, Dad, from the previous ten times you’ve told us) filled with words like methyl-ethyl-ketone, viscosity and other terms to make eyes glaze over. Yes, he does know what he’s talking about, no, I do not care. But, I will sit and nod and make appropriate noises throughout. He was, in his day, the “go to” guy at his workplace for this and many, many other things. Plus–I do not want him going all Pesci on me.

To the casual observer it might look like Dad is angry about damn near everything these days. He’s not. He’s really angry about one thing: His wife of nearly 60 years slips a little further away every damn day, and no matter what he does, he can’t fix or change it.  

May 15 2013

Chronic Tonic-Mother’s Day

originally published at VOTS

As a family we were never the Hallmark Card picture of any holiday, but we celebrated and enjoyed them just the same. Mother’s Day was no exception. We never did anything over the top, just cards and flowers for mom, gifts when we were flush, and a nice family dinner. The non-moms get to clean up and that is pretty much how it went for most of my life.

Now, here is where I’ll tell you a little something about my mom. My mom was smart, funny, the Aunt who was everybody’s favorite, and notoriously hard to buy a gift for. You could try, but if she opened that bugger and wasn’t thrilled with what was inside? Oh! There was no hiding that, she just couldn’t pretend. That is hard on a kid. Happily, as she got older, she started collecting things, Seraphim Angels for one, giving us all an easy out. Just add to her collection and she’d be pleased as punch. That’s over now. There’s no more pleasure or displeasure, just a distracted sense of–Oh, is it Mother’s Day?

It shouldn’t be this hard, yet somehow it is. I can’t even explain it. I loved my Grandmother as much as one could possibly love another human being, and I helped nurse her through her final year on this earth right here in the room where I sit. A series of strokes took her mobility, her speech and finally her life, and that was very hard, but it wasn’t like this. The doctor told us all that we took much better care of her than she would have ever received in long term care, she was never alone, she was always surrounded by family who loved her. It was at this time that my mother got a promise from me–no less for you, Mom, never will you be abandoned to strangers, not on my watch. That’s a promise she’s reminded me of at times over the years, not lately, because she doesn’t remember, but I do.

Dementia has stolen the Mom I knew, but not the Mom I love. Even if she doesn’t know if we’re mother and daughter or sisters that day, she still knows that she loves me and I love her. As I stood at the stove on Mother’s Day I heard her come into the kitchen, and I turned to her, “Do you need something, Mommy?” She came to me and hugged me, her eyes welling up, said my name and “Thank you, thank you so much for…” then the strings of that emotional corset pulled so tight– I couldn’t breath for a moment, my throat threatened to lock and leave me unable to speak. I heard her murmur something about what I do for her and I managed to get out, “No, we do for each other, we always have.” She pulled back and she was smiling, “Yeah, we do, don’t we?” and then she wandered away.

And that hug, it was a gift, a beautiful gift to me. But what I wouldn’t give for just one more stink-eye from Mom over a bad gift.