My sister has begun to think Mom is capable of hurting someone. It is true she seems to like sharp objects. Before we got the care giver, people in her building reported that she had been walking around outside with a can opener, a corkscrew, and a pliers. Around the house she often carries nail clippers, the hefty kind with the handles and scissor ends.
I find this concept of sweet-mom-as-assault-mom rather crazy, but then remember how quickly I’ve witnessed a dog turn when it’s scared, or when it is made vulnerable by a progressive disease it doesn’t understand (my dog had epilepsy; it would attack after a seizure). I have to wonder how much different are humans, really?
All those things we’ve been telling ourselves that Mom ‘would never do’, well she has started to do some of them. Wandering outside the apartment without her keys. Taking other people’s mail. Trying to unlock another person’s apartment because she thinks it is hers. Locking herself in her bedroom.
The other evening, I got a call from Annie (still in her first few weeks!) in which Mom had grown frantic when they returned home from having dinner somewhere. Annie told her it was me on the line, ‘your daughter’. Mom picked up and could not hear me well. “Come and get me,” she said. “I’m here without a car. I don’t know how to get home.”
“You’re home already, Mom. That’s where you live. Annie lives with you now.”
“No, this isn’t my home. I live over there. You know, I’m on the sixth floor. I’m . . . oh, please!” Tears and anxiety and confusion flood the conversation. “But you are home already, Mom.”
“What? What? I can’t hear you. Oh, help!”
Tonight, Mom doesn’t recognize her own home. She continues to beg me to come and get her. Any suggestion that she is already home just brings further agitated delusion so finally, I tell her ‘Yes, I’ll come tomorrow I the morning.” This calms her. “How soon?”
In the morning.
“So I can just go to bed then, I suppose?” she asks, suddenly placated. “Yes Mom, you can. And you should. Go to bed. It’s dark out.”
In the background, I hear Annie in a soothing, sing-song tone: ‘this is your house, Joan, you are a nice lady. It’s a nice house. I am staying with you and you have a nice room, and I have a nice room too. It’s okay. It’s okay.”
I wonder where she thinks home is.
Mom and Dad lived in the same house for more than 50 years, a sweet canary-yellow bungalow-style on a modest block. It was the house I grew up in, a house they sold in 2009 to move into a condo closer to my sister. For her, I am sure that house fills her mind with memories; raising two kids, learning to play the organ, cooking late meals for a self-employed workman who piled high our double garage with junk. Maybe, when the mind goes, home becomes a memory of home, the one that is most deep, rich, and lasting.
Or maybe, just maybe, the home she is talking about is one she’s created to keep her safe in a world of deteriorating perceptions, a home that exists only in her mind, a home that will be there for her, more vivid than ever, when the outside world can no longer hold her attention.
I hope so.