Journey Through Dementia

Journey Through Dementia

Friday, October 3, 2014

Today at Atria

Today was one of those days I have every so often, where I felt like crying when I left Atria.  I went there for lunch and we "visited" (such as visits are these days) beforehand.

A week or so ago, I had disturbing news about the health of someone we both love very much.  The wife had found a breast lump and was going to see the doctor.  After her appointment, the doctor said he was pretty sure it was cancer.   I hesitated about whether to tell my mother or not, but ultimately decided to tell her, even though the extent of the cancer and the expected treatment had not yet been decided, mostly because I wanted to share my own feelings about the sad news.

It hurt a lot that I was feeling so bad for my friends, the wife and her husband, that they are going through this and that my mother treated it as if it were something trivial. Now it has been decided that a mastectomy will be performed next week and my heart is aching for my friend.

My mother can't seem to process the news in any emotional part of her brain.  She had a momentary expression of sadness, but then went on to ask if the weather was hot outside. I know it's her disease and I know that if she were in her right mind she would be much more concerned, but she treats it with all the interest she has for anything these days.

Maybe it was a bad idea to take her to San Rafael for lunch and experience that one brief moment of normalcy.  It's definitely gone and much as I want to talk about the medical condition with her, she just can't grasp the seriousness of it, the potential danger, or anything else about this cancer.  Or that in a matter of just one week, our friend has gone from being just fine to having her breast removed, but my mother can't process what a trauma this must be for her.

Add to that our lunch.  We sat at a table alone.  I don't know where Margaret, who usually eats at that table, is.  She hasn't been there the last couple of times we have been there.  I watched all the tables of people around me chatting and I realized that I was feeling like a mother whose kid isn't one of the cool kid, the kid who people don't seek out for conversation at school.  People would come by our table, glance down and move on.

But then my mother told me that if I weren't there she would just take her lunch to her apartment.  Then she sat there criticizing everyone in the room.  She commented on how everyone was chewing and made it sound like a negative judgement on people chewing their lunch.  She always comments that there are so many people with grey hair there and sneers about the people using walkers.  This becomes a litany when there is nobody else at the table, repeated over and over again.  She doesn't want to be "one of them," so she'd rather eat by herself.

She is complaining a lot about her back, but of course a walker is out of the question.  I normally don't even mention it any more but she complained about pain so much today that I did, but I think a walker would be the worst thing ever for her.  If she had to use a walker, I think it would literally kill her.  Her pride in not needing one (even though she does) is what is keeping her limping along to "hunnert." And of course seeing a doctor about her pain is out of the question.  She doesn't need a doctor.

So it was just a sad day.  They are usually somewhat sad days (which is why the not-sad days are so special!), but most days I handle them better than I did today. I want her to feel something, dammit not just sit there musing about whether the leaves rustling in the trees mean that there is a cool breeze outside, but unwilling to open her door to find out.

She told me for the umpteenth time about the new pathway they created just steps from her door.  "Have you tried it out?" I asked her.   "What for?" she said.  She could see it just fine from her chair and didn't see any reason why she needed to go and actually walk on it.

She's now hoping that she does live to hunnert because she thinks that would really be a neat thing to do.  If she does, I might be in a home myself by then!

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