Mom’s smiles

Looking through old photographs of Mom, it becomes obvious to me how much Mom has changed. Many years ago when I was younger, she would hardly pose for photos, “I’m too busy,” she would say, “what do you want a picture for? I’m not dressed for it”. Her smile for the camera, if we could get her to pose, would be an intelligent one, sure of herself.

In more recent years, after the onset of dementia, she often seemed to be laughing and smiling very brightly. I remembered those occasions. When we dined out, she would only give a quick glance at the menu and say, “What are you having?” and then, “I’ll have that  too”. Her indecision extended to other areas, especially dressing, and packing for travelling, “What shall I wear? What should I bring?”. And later on, the questions broadened into, “What do I do now?”

Sometimes I wondered at the overbright smiles, was she hiding her uncertainty? Trying to fit in, being obliging, quick to join in in case a joke had just been made? Or maybe she was just happy, and its just me who was too suspicious because it seemed so out of character.

Nowadays, Mom smiles and laughs easily, she seems almost “ticklish” at times. She’s happy to be alive and looks forward to what the day brings, whatever it might be.

 

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Good morning, Sister! 

Everyday my mom starts her day by greeting me thus.

She calls me Sister only but once a day. The rest of the day I am nobody. But without a doubt I will be Sister once more when morning comes again. It is like a game we play, every day, same time, same place. 

I tried interupting her by boldly saying “Good morning, Mom!” before she can get a word in, but she only laughs and says back, “Good morning, Sister!” 

A Year in Review

A couple of weeks back, I noticed one of my posts was getting a lot of views from unknown persons. That post was “What is a Snack?” and it gave a snapshot of how Mom was about a year ago. She was confused, disorientated and gave the impression that she would only get worse and the end was near.

Fortunately for us, she stabilised, and amazingly enough, she probably even improved slightly. She’s still frail, but seems less confused, and she doesn’t get as agitated or wake up at night.

I’m not sure what helped the most. And I am very hesitant to report this…. but we started her on coconut oil. Just one teaspoon everyday. At the same time, we slowed down on snacks and rice as she was more sedentary and gaining weight.

It is all still very controversial and the theory goes like this – Alzheimer’s is a kind of diabetes of the brain. The science on this is still in its infancy, and more findings are required. Now Mom doesn’t have diabetes, but she does have mixed dementia (combined Alzheimer’s and vascular), and she has vascular disease similar to those found in persons with diabetes. So in theory, if she has something like diabetes, she may benefit from a diet that’s good for persons with diabetes.

There’s a huge controversy on what’s good for a person with diabetes today. One idea is that a high fat diet is good, and to avoid carbohydrates and excessive protein. It’s hard to believe that the minor change we made to her diet made any difference, but here we are. I’ll say no more.

Update. Touch wood.

I know it’s been a long time since I last wrote. There’s not much change in Mom’s status, which is a good thing.

She’s a Happy Camper.

She wishes me Good Morning with a huge smile.

She laughs because exercise tickles.

She sleeps when she feels like it.

TV is fun or not, it’s still watchable. 

Occasionally she spits out chewed food. 

Occasionally she thinks afternoon tea is breakfast time. At times I’m her sister.

But on the whole, it’s peace and love. Life goes on. Touch wood. 

Hazy Update

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I’ve been meaning to write, just didn’t get organised enough to do so. Some ideas don’t bear closer scrutiny, and fall by the wayside. Anyway, here’s an update of sorts.

The weather has been mostly hazy. Grey and smoky. The sun, when we do see it, is an angry red ball. There may be one clear day every ten days, when the wind shifts. By my estimate, the forest fires should be done by the end of this month, and November will be better.

Mom is calm and happy. Occasionally we catch her doing something she shouldn’t, like trying to take a bath fully clothed. But all in all, we are managing. Conversations can be amusing or fascinating, or astounding. One example:

Me, holding a banana: What’s this?
Mom: Mango!
Me: No, no! Look again, what’s this? B-a-n-a…..
Mom: Mango!
Me: I know you love mangoes, but we’re out of mangoes. Here, have this banana.

Mom catches on to emotions of those around her very well. She is still sensitive though the words don’t come so easily. She knows who she likes, and who she dislikes. She’s consistent that way.

She’s nice. Affable. Totally accepting of what is. When she says, “I don’t remember anymore”, it is a statement of fact. She smiles as she says it. But she is clear, because underlying that and unspoken is, “Don’t even try to remind me. I don’t remember, and it doesn’t matter.”

Forgotten, in a manner

Mom was admitted to hospital for a brief illness, and I was visiting her.

“Hello, how are you today?”

“Hello. My daughter just went off.”

I wasn’t expecting that. “It’s me. I’m your daughter, Mom.”

She looks uncertain, and then, “No,” she says, “My daughter, she just went over there. Can you go and get her?”

I knew she had an earlier visitor, but hadn’t realized she thought that person was me, or so I hope, if she still remembers she had a daughter like me. So I decided to go along, “Oh, she’ll be back in a while.”

It’s really strange and unexpected.

At home, we never go to Mom and ask her, “Do you know who I am?” We assume all is fine if we get a cheery Good Morning! or Hello! The routine exchange of greetings, the signs of familiarity, the ease with which Mom navigates to her regular chair; surely all is well.

Or maybe the problem isn’t Mom, but me. Maybe I’m forgettable. Really.

I once went back to a workplace after a gap of a year. There were a few familiar faces at work that day, but they could not recall me. “Did you work here before? When? Really? No, we can’t remember you” they said. It gave me a turn and my heart pounded. I had a fleeting thought of “Twilight Zone” and then I wondered if I had caused offense and was being purposely “forgotten”.

On thinking back, I think it could be because I was task focused and did not get to know these colleagues personally, or they were task focused and did not see me. Or the turnover of staff was so high that those who stayed did not bother to keep track and remember those who had left.

Whatever, I think I can accept being forgotten. It’s the forgetting I’d rather not have.