DATELINE: December 20, 2020, from Lady Proverbs, somewhere on the Oregon Coast
Mama Bear going into memory care during COVID is training for when she is fully gone, deceased, in the after life. Dead. That realization came today after a beach walk when thoughts of eternity and the billions-years-old ocean and the finiteness of insignificant humans like me walking on it all spurred a reality check. For us “kids,” thinking about Mom dying is something that we avoided. As with many adults with elderly parents, the inevitable is getting closer, shit starts happening (like 911 calls for falls once a week) and the dread grows. Dad died earlier this year so we’ve seen one of our parents leave this earth, painfully, as cancer danced its denouement through his bones.
The last several weeks in a world with Dementia Mom has created a Family in Trauma, that Dad’s long march to death was not preparation for. Yes, you expect parents to get ill at some point, or to have old age simply wear out their parts. But when dementia sneaks in during the night and steals away with Mama Bear it quickly turns into an episode of the Twilight Zone high on a 4-shot Starbucks latte and a few vape hits of Indica. What the hell? Yeah, we’re in hell. Mama Bear’s hell has seeped through her and erupted forth and smacked us in the face like the space monster ripping out of John Hurt’s stomach in Alien and spraying ectoplasm on everyone.
Imagine waking up in the morning and having it feel like you awoke in someone else’s life, in a house that was completely different than it was before you slept. That people were holding you hostage, and your room number changed into signs showing you had died. That all your money had been stolen, that something was wrong with your kids, one minute they were in danger from something and the next you just knew they said they would never visit you again and were trying to harm you in some way; or they were actually in the tv, doing things to programs, showing up as characters in Hallmark movies. And then an hour later you pretty much forgot all that and then just cry, wanting your kids to fix everything.
Trauma is the poisonous phantom that transformed Mama Bear into Dementia Mom seemingly over night. She’s in her own disaster movie much of the time, constantly dodging life threatening dangers that actually never happen. And then she’s ok for a few hours or a day and enjoys singing and coloring and having meals with the other residents in memory care. We can visit her at the window now, which we couldn’t do after her James Bondian escape from there soon after she arrived (see previous blog post for gory details should you want to know). So things are looking up for her we think and hope, while the five of us remaining kids are also experiencing the effects of trauma, or PTSD, or something that doesn’t feel great. In fact, it hurts our heads. And we can’t call Mom or Dad to talk about it, like we used to. That is what is dead.
We all put off calling her because the calls range from nonsensical to mean to good ones where Mama Bear sneaks back in, and we lap it up like kittens with the milk munchies. She believes my older brother in his 60s and his wife are having a baby now, which of course is only one of the stories in Dementia Mom’s Big Book of Stories for Kids. Us kids. Us old kids now who grieve for Mama Bear, feel the guilt that kids feel when their parent needs medical care that we can’t provide but she’s enclosed in a place where she can no longer touch us and seeing us is only through the panes of a window. We tried to touch a few weeks ago, her fingers on one side of the glass and mine on the other. I think we did feel something through that glass. That was love in its new variation. Like an etude: Variations on Love in COVID, in D major.
I’m simply losing myself in old memories right now. I’m mainlining them, in fact, which is easy to do when you’re isolated in a rental apartment in a coastal town mostly devoid of tourists for once, are retired, and don’t need to deal with work. We got no kids. The YouTube channel on tv plays a lot of old Christmas music and films, I’m making cookies, wrapping presents, forcing back memories and digging in deeper so I can recall those old times, which always seem better, more ideal, perfect in fact, when looking back over decades, back to the 1960s.
But I’ve got to sign off, in a less poetic way than usual, as for some reason the tears just began to fall and these words are getting blurry and the sea calls. And Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer is starting. I would just rather be with all the toys on the Island of Misfit Toys. I think I kind of belong there right now.