Freaky thing my mom mentioned last time I talked to her, which was before Halloween:
“The big thing now,” she says to me, “is I have to remember to stay neutral toward your dad.”
The ways in which my dad’s care is increasingly like a horror/circus side show , with each new act increasingly bizarre, is undeniable at this point. But I bite, because what else are we gonna talk about? Plus, he’s my dad, why not know everything there is to know?
Except even as I’m nonchalant, I’m also wondering if this is where he starts hitting her. Guess that’s likely as things progress — the verbal goes, the logic goes, and he’ll get frustrated. So like, 70% blasé, 25% crash-position-shoulders, 5% weirdly sweaty. “Neutral how?”
“Well, say I have a bad day and snap at him, or we have a good day and we’re laughing,” she tells me. “He’ll go to sleep, and when he wakes up, he doesn’t recognize me as the same person as the day before.”
Dad not recognizing her has been going on for a long time, and in varying format. Sometimes, he calls her on the phone to figure it out. Once, he fell back in love with her after he forgot her. For a long time, she was ‘that woman’ who wouldn’t let him drive.
“So now,” she says, “If we had a good day the day before, he’ll wake up and want to know what happened to the nice lady. He enlists me in the job of helping him search the house for the nice lady. Sometimes it takes half the day for him to let go of the idea she’s around somewhere, happy, without him.”
I start to make a joke about finding herself, when my mom adds this: “And if I was irritable the day before, the next morning he’ll wake up and beg me to find the other lady, to tell her that he loves her, and he’s sorry for whatever he did, and to please, please come back. He’ll tell me how much he loves her, and how lonely he is without her there.”
It’s a Hall of Mirrors, Alice in Wonderland Easter Egg Hunt of heartbreak. Honestly, at this point I’m just documenting it all so when it’s over I can make an assessment on whether there’s anything at all to gain from living with dementia or long walk off a short pier is the way to go. You know, in case this whole thing is heritable. And, whoa, I bet you didn’t think this post could get darker, huh? But here we are!
PS: Please enjoy this shirt via a Beyoncé video, which I totally want to buy and wear forever, except I don’t have the balls to wear it anywhere, not even in my own house alongside kids who read, and so this inanimate object proves itself cooler than me, which means now I really want it.