The Talk

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During our lives we’re all bound to encounter several of those “talks,” be it from our parents, significant others, friends, etc. This weekend I had one of those talks with my mother — about the opening in Assisted Living and that she’ll be able to move into the apartment in mid-September after its re-model.

The news was met with some indifference followed by, “You know, I’m not thrilled about it.”

I went through the drill I’ve done with her before explaining why now is the right time to re-locate there – more organized activities, more structure, more mental stimulation, more personalized care — everything that C., her speech therapist,  discussed with her.

As I gazed around her apartment, which I love, I realized even more how much she has outgrown it in terms of unnecessary and unused space and the necessity to downsize her surroundings to make things more manageable. My mother has more clothes and more shoes and more handbags than she could ever need or even wear in a given season or year. This space suited her fine when she first moved in. Not now.

The AL apartment is smaller than my brother and I wanted. Perhaps mom won’t  mind. At least we have the option to get on the list in AL for a larger one. My selling point to her is that she’ll be able to experience what’s it’s like to live in a college-like dorm room; she has told me on several occasions that her biggest regret was not having gone to college. Now she can sort of get a feel for what a dorm room is like, althougth, the apartment is a bit larger and has an efficiency kitchen.

Later, while we were in the car, we wound up having another one of those “talks,” one that I did not anticipate but gladly welcomed. Mom said to me, “I know what I have,” followed by a tearful, “Why me? Why do I have this?”

It just broke my heart. I couldn’t help but join her in crying (which isn’t hard for me to do these days), and while driving the car I removed my right hand from the steering wheel to take her hand in mine.

“Why does anyone get anything?”  I answered her in a teary voice, trying to re-gain composure. “We just don’t know the answers to some questions.”

I understand her puzzlement about her condition. While we have longevity on my mother’s side, no one ever showed signs of dementia. My grandmother, who died at 86 and had  rheumatoid arthritis, was as sharp as a whip until the end. She also happened to be the only one in the family with this crippling disease. So why her?

Going out on a limb in trying to give mom some answers, I told her that possibly her three or four falls (from neuropathy in her feet) a couple of years ago and bangs to her head could have caused some head trauma; she suffered at least one concussion from these falls. I just don’t know. She’s also had two carotidectomies. Could blood flow have been a precursor? I don’t know. Do I worry that I might develop dementia myself? Of course! After all, I’m in that age group where we forget things. I reassure myself it’s simply information overload.

So, mom and I are talking more frequently and openly about her move into AL. On Sunday, as I helped her fold laundry, I told her she’ll never have to do laundry again because it’s a provided service in AL. A big smile came across her face. She hadn’t done laundry for years and only began doing it again when she moved here. So, there’s something to look forward to. She also asked again when she’ll be moving. I told her mid-September, that they’re putting in new carpet and appliances. That also was met with enthusiastic approval. While I’m hoping these responses aren’t “cover-ups” to how she really feels, I  don’t think they are.

While I principally started this blog as an outlet for my emotions, I’ve begun sharing it with some key family members to give them a sense of what’s been going on despite keeping them informed by phone and email. This weekend I received the ultimate compliment from my brother and  second cousin, both of whose opinion I hold high. Not that I needed validation from them for what I’m doing, but their comments showed me that they both got  a more intimate and personal appreciation of my situation and my mother’s.

I mention “second cousin” because H. and my mom are very close; she always told me he’s the brother she never had. My dad always placed a strong emphasis on blood relatives — “so and so is your first/second blood cousin,” he would say.  He was funny that way; needless to say, he was a strong family man. H. is also a retired psychologist but remains quite active in the APA. Because of his profession, I guess I feel he can better understand my emotions. But I digress.

It was a productive weekend for mom and me. We had not only one talk but two. We were able to talk about her imminent move to AL and she was able to open up to me about her condition. We enjoyed watching the movie  “Julie & Julia,” reminiscing about our trip to France for her 75th birthday (a gift from my brother and I) and going over trip photos.

I look forward to more moments like this.



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