When I called Mom last night, she sounded weirdly calm and instructional. Ya’ll have moms – you know that airline pilot’s voice they put on to soothingly tell you to assume crash position or whatever? That’s how she answered.
“Your father’s had a change. Now if I leave, even for a few minutes, he can’t remember who I am when I come back.”
How long was a few minutes?
If she only has to pee, she can make it back and he might remember. But a shower takes too long. But the big bummer: no more walks with Middle for exercise in the morning, unless Dad agrees to go. He can’t be left alone at all.
Except people must sleep, or shower, or take ten minutes to read a trashy paperback novel while hiding in the bathroom. So their daily schedule is now peppered with Dad trying to figure out what happened to the beloved wife who disappeared, while deciding whether to trust the new stranger.
Mom’s still cautiously optimistic about the underlying bond between them that lets him trust her despite not believing who she says she is.
“Your father insists the other wife is taller!” Mom laughs. She tells him, “We’ll just have to agree to disagree,” and he accepts that, and they sit down and watch TV together.
“You sound strange,” I said. “Not stressed, but different. What’s that about?”
Another breezy laugh. “Oh, it’s because I’m dissociated.”
Later, when I told my husband about the phone call, he misunderstood dissociated as Mom having distance from the problem, and therefore being protected from it.
“I think she meant it as a psych term, like disconnected from reality. An extreme of dissociation might be if you had a near-death experience, and you felt yourself floating above the operating table instead of being inside your body. Or I guess at the far extreme, it might be part of what they used to call multiple personality disorder.”
“Well,” my husband said, ever the optimist. “They’re matched. Your dad thinks there’s more than one version of your mom. If she’s dissociating, it’s kind of true.”
PS: My anxiety level for impending family ski vacation is at stage Butt Pucker as I am forced to face the fact 95% of Mom’s frenetic holiday plans are laughably unlikely given Dad’s current level of functioning. I know you can’t help, but… Omigod. Help?