It’s All Maya!

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Where Is She? Where Did She Go? — (Mum Has Dementia)

November 4th, 2017 · 6 Comments

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Who is this woman sitting in a wheelchair staring out into space, this woman who more often than not prefers to keep her eyes shut even when she’s awake? Is the sight of this world too overwhelming as she slips further and further away? I don’t know, but I do know this woman looks like my mum, but she’s not. What happened to our little Energizer Bunny who kept going and going and going? Where is she? Where did she go?

Mum was full of energy, always doing something. If she wasn’t in her garden planting or harvesting, she was cleaning house, or watering her flowers, or in the kitchen cooking and making tortillas. If that wasn’t enough, she was volunteering her time to help others. She was full of life.

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Mum’s hibiscus in bloom this morning.

When I’d called mum on the phone, she could talk ten minutes straight telling me which of her flowers were flourishing. I would listen, yet I had no idea what an azalea looked like from a zinnia, but it was funny to hear how animated she could get over a flower in bloom. Mum no longer talks now unless you ask her a question and most of the time her answers are either yes, or no. Nothing more.

Mum had a mini stroke eleven years ago and recovered fully. She had two strokes recently and miraculously she suffered no physical consequences. Her speech isn’t slurred and there’s no partial paralysis, but mum has dementia and this horrible disease is slowly taking her away from her family. She was in the hospital and then rehab, but at 95 years old we brought her home. She wanted nothing more than to come home.

“Home sweet home…there’s no place like home.”

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Except, she no longer knows she’s home.

“Where are you, mum?” my brother asked.
“I don’t know.”
Don’t you recognize your Japanese coffee table?”
“No.”
“What about your Chinese dining room set?”
“No.”
“That’s okay, mum, you’re home.”

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Mum must’ve been Asian in a past life if her choice of furniture is any indication, but she never made it to the Far East. After my father passed away, she traveled halfway around the world. She swam with dolphins in Hawaii, and went to the Bahamas and Puerto Rico, she took cruises to Greece and Turkey where her ship almost sank in a storm. Mum was always afraid of water, but that didn’t stop her. When she was 56 years old, we traveled throughout Europe and Scandinavia hopping on and off trains for six whole months. I wanted to show her places where I had lived: Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid… Most often she journeyed to Mexico to visit family.

Family.

“Who am I, mum? Do you know?”
“No.”
“I’m Lynn, your daughter.”
“Lynn…Lynn?”
“Lindy, mum. Belinda.”
(I was named after Jane Wyman’s award winning role in the film, Johnny Belinda. My younger sister was named Olivia, after Olivia de Havilland from Gone With The Wind. Mum loved her movies.)
“Hmm, Belinda? No, you’re a stranger.”
“Would a stranger feed you, bathe you, care for you?”
“Yes, a nice stranger.”
“Good answer, mum. Yes, a nice stranger, but I’m your daughter.”

Mum repeats to herself, over and over like a mantra she mumbles, “Help me, God, help me get well. Help me, God, help me get well.” She knows there’s something wrong in her mind. And I tell God, “Help her, dammit!” Sorry, God, but I can only listen to it for so long.

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Mum and her grand-daughter, Kerri, holding hands.

Help this woman who at 93 was still playing Candy Crush every day on her tablet (she reached level 577) who used a smartphone, went on the internet and Googled, and had her own Facebook page to see what was going on with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. This nonagenarian who could email and Skype on her own. My laptop would buzz in Paris and there was mum pleased as punch on the other side of the pond Skyping me so we could chat.

“God, what did you do with my mum? Where is she? Where did she go?”

After my father died 44 years ago, mum kept her family together. She was the matriarch, the nuturer, the glue that kept us united. She cared for everyone. Ironically, she can no longer care for herself. I feed her. I put food on her utensil and tell her, “Pick up the spoon, mum, and eat.” She’ll pick it up and feed herself. Once. Then she’ll sit with the food in front of her and wait. Over and over, I put food on the utensil and tell her to feed herself, but she has to be told each time. Truth be told, it’s easier to just feed her.

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Mum’s vitals are better than mine, all her organs are working fine. Mum’s a fighter, her doctor said she could live to be 100+, but mum isn’t mum. Dementia is stealing her from us one day at a time. She’s here, but she’s not. Her body is, but the essence of her isn’t. Her spirit, her soul, who she is, or was, has taken flight to places we can’t go. Places I don’t want to go. I watch and care for her. I set my alarm and wake up every 3-4 hours at night to care for her. It’s a 24/7 job. My job. I will watch her until January 2018 and then one of my siblings will take over, and then another, and then my turn will come again. It’s not easy even though she’s my mum, because in a way, she’s not. She’s the stranger.

Mum playing piano

I miss my mum. The mum who laughed and joked and heralded the family news to keep me in the know because I lived so far away. The prankster who every 1st of April made sure she tricked each one of her kids and delighted in saying “April Fool’s!” Every once in a while, mum returns from that other place she goes to and there’s a spark of recognition. Not too long ago, we sat and watched Dancing With The Stars. It was Disney night. I had shown mum a photo we had taken a few years back, mum and her five kids.

“Who is this, do you know?” I pointed to mum.
“That’s me.”
“Good mum. And who’s that?” I pointed to my brother, the baby of the family.
“That’s Bam.” (My brother was a strong kid like Bam-Bam from The Flintstones. He got his nickname when he was two years old and the name stuck.)
“Good. And who’s that?” I pointed to my other brother.
“Bobby.”
“Yes, that’s right. Your two sonny boys, mum.” Next, I pointed to me.
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know. Look, that’s me.”
“I don’t know.”
She didn’t know my two sisters either. Strangers we were.
So we watched Dancing With The Stars and out came the Disney characters.
“There’s Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.” Mum said.
“Boy, mum, you know Mickey and Donald, but you don’t know your three daughters.”
Mum laughed. Bob and I laughed.
“I think you’re playing possum mum.”
Mum stared at the TV, but no longer saw what she was looking at.
Where is she? In that split second, where did she go?

I ask myself, is mum in a better place, a place where she sees family and loved ones? Does she converse with them in her mind like in a dream? Or is she a prisoner locked away in a void where there’s nothing, no one? Is her mind condemned to solitary confinement, living in an empty cell?

“Do you talk to anyone, mum?”
“No.”
“Do you see anyone?”
“No one.”
“What are you thinking, mum?”
“Nothing.”

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Mum on one of her good days.

Maya Muses: These past few days, mum emerged from behind a cloud. She was her old self once more. Was this the miracle we’ve been praying for? Or is she like a shooting star, shining bright for a moment before falling from the sky. Whatever it is, we count each blessing when mum emerges, even if only for a little while. Most of the time, however, I look at my lovely mum and ask myself, where is she? Where did she go?

Photo Credits: Personal Photos, Hand Photo thanks to Kerri Schofield

Tags: Is Anyone Listening? · Special Moments

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Patrick Hebert // Nov 4, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    What a beautiful post. It’s so sad.
    You made me cry cherie.

  • 2 Lynn // Nov 5, 2017 at 1:41 am

    Merci, it is sad and at times harder than I had imagined.

  • 3 Marie agnes // Nov 5, 2017 at 7:06 am

    Lynn
    Je suis triste pour ta maman; et pour
    toi; c est si douloureux de voir les dégâts
    que provoquent cette maladie .
    Très difficile aussi pour toi.de ne plus être reconnue par ta maman …absurde même ..
    je te souhaite beaucoup de courage… ton texte est – très émouvant ..essaie si tu le peux et malgré tout de plaisanter et rire avec elle c est ce que préconisent certains soignants face à cette maladie….je t’embrasse ma belle .àTon retour j esp?re allez boire un café avec toi dans les jardins du luxem bourg.
    MarieAgnes

  • 4 Lynn // Nov 6, 2017 at 2:33 am

    Merci, ma chère, Marie-Agnès. Oui, parfois c’est très difficile et parfois je suis épuisée, mais au meme temps je suis heureuse de passer ce temps avec ma petite maman. Rendez-vous au Jardin du Luxembourg (avec grand plaisir) à mon retour à Paris!

  • 5 Jeanpierre // Nov 6, 2017 at 7:56 am

    Qu’il est difficile à vivre ce temps,
    pour l’un et pour les autres, sans doute plus,
    vers le Paradis blanc.

    Conserve l’énergie Lynn,
    je suis de tout coeur avec vous…

    Jeanpierre

  • 6 Lynn // Nov 7, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    Merci, Jean-Pierre, ce n’est pas facile, surtout pour ma maman. Mais heureusement il y a des rayons de bonheur aussi.

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