Yesterday, January 11th was an anniversary, of sorts; not a pleasant one but a date that will stay in my mind for years to come…if I live that long.
My late mother went for a pre-dawn, dementia-stroll, on the eleventh of January, eight years ago, an event that I shared on an earlier blog called “The Bad Day” which I invite you to read just to set the scene for my ramblings of the moment.
One more, fairly massive, snowfall made its way into the Northeast last evening; I’m certain that Mom was behind it. Trust me, this is her way of sending out reminders of that date which she doesn’t want forgotten. Mother always had her methods of getting noticed even through the dementia destruction of her mind.
Right now, I sit here with intense mixed emotions as I recall the date that significantly changed my life several years ago. Yes, it changed mothers as well but remember, she was well on her way into Neverland at that point, insulated from what would deeply affect the person who stepped into the role of her caregiver.
I will never forget walking into her apartment early that January morning; there she sat, dressed in a cotton robe and slippers with a local police officer standing by her side. She was smiling, still holding a New York Times newspaper that she had come across during her stroll and loving every bit of the attention she was receiving. Mom showed no ill effects of being out in temperatures of 13 degrees as she walked the city streets and I’m surprised still that she didn’t make the officer some coffee while he waited patiently for my husband and me to arrive from upstate.
I’m guilty of probably ignoring so many signs of Mom’s decline; have said it many times. Like mother, like daughter in so many ways. Was my behavior payback for the years she turned her back on the abuse I suffered as a child or, in my heart, was it orchestrated by the fear of having to deal with becoming her parent? Thinking back to how much different the scene might have played out that night makes me feel even worse; what if she had fallen and frozen to death in the streets; what if some degenerate had attacked her? It would have been my fault, and no one else’s, for not taking better care of her, for not being more vigilant in acknowledging that she was coming mentally un-glued.
My three children will attest to the fact that I was less than a perfect parent myself having been extremely hard on each of them when they were younger. I’m human, made plenty of mistakes but at least I’ve acknowledged those shortcomings to my kids; my mother never did where I was concerned, she just went about living her life and looked the other way. That…is a dagger that is permanently lodged in my being.
Nevertheless, the guilt remains and, for the moment, it’s about me, not my late mother. It pains me still that she left twice in my life without saying good-bye; the first when dementia took away her mind and the second on the day she passed away right after I walked out the door. Here and now, I admit my faults and will always feel that I could have done so much better. Maybe that’s where I’m different; possibly my remorse is dictated by the fear of dementia someday creeping in and stealing the person I’ve been or haven’t had the chance to yet become. More likely I’m afraid that those closest to me might never hear me say “I’m sorry”; that’s why stating it here is important, it is now a matter of record.
I like that.
Family and friends will understand; visitors to my blog who stop in to peek at my life might understand as well and maybe, just maybe, I’ve managed to pass on some support to someone else, hopefully a caregiver who is feeling overwhelmed and alone.
You aren’t alone. Come and visit me anytime you feel the need. Coffee is on, sit a while….