Monday, November 17, 2014

The Tribe of Memory Care

When we moved my mom to memory care a year ago, I knew it was the right decision.  I was passed what I could safely deal with and one of us was going to end up hurt or dead if we continued.  So after blistering tears and lots of shouting we moved her.

I can still remember my first day visiting her in memory care.  Gut check.  The people seemed so broken and damaged.  J, the resident who no longer verbalized and spent her day shuffling around the edges of things.  M, the unblinking woman who carried her baby with her everywhere and would break out into screaming fits.  M2, the know it all who felt entitled to give her opinion on everything and tell people what to do at all times.  J and C, who's incessant calling for the nurse or for help made me want to lock them in their rooms.  My mom didn't belong here with these cuckoo people.  It was hard to look at some of them and imagine my bright and energetic mama spending days with them.

 But there were a handful that were more like mom, in the early moderate stages of AD and that made it bearable. There was M, her new bestie an equally feisty woman I loved on sight.  There were R and M, both sweet and kind.  And there was G, my mom's compadre in her desperate escape plans.  She cried every time I left.   I cried every time I left her there for three months.  Somehow knowing that there were some people there that seemed like her made it feel OK.

So for the last year, I have been visiting her on Tuesday nights and Saturday afternoon/evening.  We have developed new rituals that work for us.  Mostly though we hang out with the other people in Memory Care.  I no longer see them as the cuckoo birds that I saw that first day, instead I see them as they are - wounded and broken human beings just looking for some love and some company.  I understand that intimately.

What I never expected was to love this little twisted broken tribe of seniors.  But the more time I spend there, the more invested I become with all of them, not just my mom.  So when I heard that her partner in crime, G, had passed away it was a gut punch.  I had just seen him the day before.  He and my mom were trying to leave as I had been coming in.  That image flashed through my head over and over of the two of them heads bent together, looking up guiltily when I came through the door as if they had been caught snitching cookies.  Every time it did, I felt that same heavy sadness.

I am glad that G is no longer suffering, that he has been reunited with his memories and his wife.  But I am also sad for me and for the other members of the tribe who may not remember him, but will undoubtedly sense the hole left by his passing.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sunday Fast Write

I was told that girls are weaker, slower, less intelligent, less everything.  They were the shadowy bit one can create when starting with only a rib.  I was taught to defer and bend the knee to any man, to every man.  There seemed no place for a woman who did not behave in this world.

Because of those teachings, I would not stand up against physical abuse.  I didn't know I could.  Besides, who would listen?  I was just a kid, and just a girl kid.  I learned that to have a boy like me I had to pretend to be stupid in math and science, to miss a simple layup on purpose and shrug as if to say "What do you expect?  I'm just a girl."  Later, I faked orgasms, hid how much money I made.  I bit my tongue instead of pointing out the flaws in his thinking.  I feigned interest in whatever a man liked, so much so that to this day I am still discovering what I like.

All that pretending left me angry, bitter.  I lashed out for no reason to try to attain an even playing field.  I never got it.  Not that way.  The rebellious fuck you stage lasted a long time.  As it drew to a close I knew no more about myself than I did before.

I was a creature of extremes.  The extreme of folding to fit in any slot.  The unfolded flat and rigid fuck you, refusing to bend at all.

These days, I am learning to let the edges curl, to let the pages flap in the wind and rumple delightfully, to discern what I need, what I like, what I want and to ask for that, to find a place where I am neither the folded, nor the foldee, but that has room for edges to overlap and withdraw as needed.

Mean Girls Are Never Pretty

Mom's sojourn in Memory Care ended when she could no longer stand and became what they term a 2-assist.  She transitioned to Skilled C...