I was writing a letter to a pen pal this evening and talking about my mother and the grandkids. She never remembers seeing them, can't remember their names, and thinks they are a toddler and a baby. I remind her all the time about how old Brianna is and how old Lacie is and she can retain that information for a few seconds and then will ask me again how old Bri is.
But as I was writing it, and how sad it makes me that she can't remember her great grandchildren, I began to think back over the time when I have been disappointed in things that she has taken no interest in. I finally decided that this inability to remember the great grandkids is just a continuation of a trait that she has had most of my life.
I can't remember how involved she was in my emotional life when I was growing up, but I think back over the times when I have been disappointed in her reaction to things, in her inability to empathize, or even listen constructively and it makes me think that there was always a mis-firing in her brain where that was concerned.
When she initiates concern for someone, based on right or wrong information, she is very empathetic and concerned for the welfare of the person she is thinking of. I think of Peach's husband Bob, for example. The last time she saw him he was in a semi-coma in the hospital after his stroke and was in and out of consciousness. We all worried that he was going to die, and the reports were not encouraging about his ability to ever be normal again.
As Bob continued to amaze us all with re-learning to talk, to walk, etc., in my mother's head he was still that shell of a man, hovering on the brink of death, unable to recognize people or talk to people. Even now when I bring her pictures of him sitting by a lake fishing or standing in the yard with Peach, smiling, she spies his walker and moans about how sad it is and what a shame that he will never be the man he was again.
By the same token, I was amazed to see her friend Dodie, who came to visit her recently. For a few years now she has told me that Dodie had "lost it" and she describes her with the circling finger around her ear that people use to describe someone who is a bit crazy. I thought she must be in end stage Alzheimers, but when I saw her, visiting my mother, she definitely has some memory problems, but seems to be in much better shape than my mother is herself.
When I think back over the things that have disappoined me over the past many years, it is always the conflict she had between her new family, after she married Fred, and our family. As I have written her many times, Fred's family always came first. I gave up trying to get her to understand how much that hurt me because it's not even that it goes in one ear and out the other--it's like she is incapable of processing my hurt feelings. I tell her how hurt I was when I wasn't included in her wedding photos and how moved I was when her stepson Ed's wife insisted I get into a photo with my mother and Fred's kids because "you're part of the family too." It was the first time I had been considered part of the family and it still makes me cry emotional tears when I write that here. I have told her that several times and it never even registers. Not even an eyeblink.
(her 90th birthday, when Fred, Jr., in the middle, was still alive)
I think about all the shows the kids did that Walt's family always attended and my mother never did because Fred didn't like them, or because she was doing something with his family. I think about the times I begged her to come to a special performance, but she never did...and now she remembers attending them all and how much she loved them. It does no good to point out that she was almost never there, though even in the days when she was more with it than she is now, I did mention a few times how sorry I was that she missed this or that very special performance. Again, there is no reaction. It's as if I had never spoken.
So the way she is now, in that aspect of things, at least, is different from her dementia. It's just the way she always was. Maybe that helps a little. I don't know. I'll have to work on that....
It's a difficult situation when you, yourself, are one raw ball of emotion most of the time!