In the afternoon, I drove over to Atria to visit my mother. I had actually tried to visit her on my way home from the DMV, but there was not a parking place to be had for love or money. I'm almost tempted to pay rent on a parking slot so I know there will always be one for me, but with my luck, someone else would use it and I'd still not have a parking space.
There was no answer when I knocked on her door, but I could hear her coughing, with that cough she doesn't have. I used my key and she was in the bathroom. She coughed all the way through her finishing up and she looked drawn but, despite her appearance, she actually seemed better. I couldn't hear gunk in her lungs any more and, remembering that everyone thinks I'm at death's door when I have my coughing months, I decided the thing to do was to just keep an eye on her and make sure it doesn't get any worse. I told her she should drink lots of water, to which she says "uh-huh" and I know she won't do. I also decided that if she doesn't have pneumonia, which I don't think she does (based on a better sounding cough and no fever), all the doctor could do would be to prescribe some medication that she won't take and she very definitely does NOT want to see a doctor, so why bother.
She wasn't very "with it" today. She told me three times about my cousin Niecie bringing plants and how she didn't know why she brought them and how they had died in the frost because even though I told her it was going to freeze, there was no way she could have known they were going to freeze and now Niecie had to come and take back all of her pots. She seems to blame Niecie for the plants dying because she should have known better than to put them there in the first place. I suggested that after Niecie removes the pots that we get some artificial plants to put out there and she said she doesn't want any plants. She's sick of plants. Never in my life did I ever think I would hear my plant-loving mother say those words.
But it is part of her giving up on life. I realize, now, that when she arrived at Atria, she figured it was to die and with dementia as an excuse (though she doesn't realize she has dementia), she has given up on everything that she used to be interested in. She never missed Sunday Mass and when Walt offered to take her to mass each week, she declined. When I told her a priest came to Atria to give communion each week to those who couldn't make it to church, she wasn't interested in that either. She used to watch all sorts of sports, but now only seems interested in sports if Ed comes to watch something with her. She still reads the newspaper, but doesn't remember what she reads. I don't know if she watches much TV.
She told me today that she doesn't have a clue what the temperature is outside and when I pointed out that she could open the sliding glass door that was about 2" from her hand, she said she didn't want to be bothered to do that.
She asked me several times today how many kids Tom has and what are their names and how old they are. When I showed her a picture of Lacie she asked me if that was the oldest one, and then asked what the oldest one's name was and how old she is.
She also says she hasn't seen Tom in months, though he was just there (with the family) a little over a month ago. I realize that she has no concept of time any more, but it just...hurts...that she can't remember her great grandchildren.
I've been reminding her for a month to get her hair cut and she keeps saying she will do it "tomorrow," but she never does. It's longer than it has ever been and she doesn't seem to care that she is starting to look like the stereotypical old lady in a rest home. I notice that she hasn't worn makeup in some time. She was always so proud of her appearance. The only pride she seems to have left is that she doesn't need a walker, though she does and doesn't understand that, but complains when we get halfway down her hall that her back is killing her, when leaning on a walker would ease the pain. She won't consider a walker, she won't take a pain pill. She'd rather just sit and stare into space. But by God she doesn't need a walker and if she ever does, will I please kill her?
I go along with it all and try not to get upset, but when I come home, I realize that I am upset and the only thing I can do is to play whatever game I have to to keep her happy. But at home I can let go and be upset because the woman who was my mother is gone. I am lucky that she is as good as she is, I realize, when there are visitors at Atria whose loved one doesn't know who they are, or who look like zombies in the dining room.
Tonight I am doing her laundry and then we will go through that frustration when I try to bring her clothes back to her tomorrow... God, I hope she remembers them this time! I think I'm going to start taking a photo of her every time she wears something I don't have a picture of her in and then when she tries to throw her clothes away, I will have a collection of photos of her wearing each of those pieces of clothing that she says she has never seen before.