Nov 12 2012

Dementia – A Gift

Category: Positive ThinkingPatricia @ 11:15 am

My mother has lost her mind. I’m not sure it’s a bad thing. After a series of strokes and the inconsolable loss of her beloved husband of 64 years, she has moved into a new reality. She has no need or motivation to live in my reality, although she does enjoy her visits when she is brought there. My reality is too confusing to her. It just doesn’t make sense. Her frame of reference is skewed and her sense of time has been altered.


Mom has times of lucidity and remembrance but often they are accompanied by sadness or loss or despair. There is really no reason for her to visit a reality where she is old and frail and unable to walk. It’s so much more fun to live in a world where you take magical walks through the woods with your Daddy and sisters…a place where you can smell the pine trees and hear the rustle of leaves on the forest floor.


Why would she want to experience life without her dear husband and her home and her world? She dreams of grocery shopping and the mundane tasks of life. She imagines preparing meals, standing by her kitchen window, looking at the lilacs blooming in the spring. I understand her desire to escape.

Always a homemaker, Mom loved babies. She would seek them out to admire, eager to hold them and cuddle and coo. She wanted lots of babies but Dad was practical. Two children – one boy, one girl.

Since the dementia, babies have been prominent in her altered reality. At times, she’s reporting having had as many as 11 babies. And she is so proud! It is very exciting until one is lost. And trust me; she loses them all the time! And then it so scary and sad. She wonders why they don’t come to visit. She asks if they like her because surely if they liked her, they would come.

I stand outside her door, eager to enter. It’s been a long while since I’ve been to visit, but time no longer has meaning to her. 3000 miles distance keeps me away. I don’t know what to expect. Dear, sweet, Aunt Alice stands behind me, watching. Guarding her beloved sister and her precious niece. Mom sits comfortably tucked into her bed, her hands neatly folded across her lap. She appears content and at ease. She is distracted by the activity of an aide washing the floor. And then she notices me. Her eyes move up and down, up and down, taking in every bit of me. And then the gleeful smile appears as she declares, “You’ve grown!” There is surprise and delight in her voice. She sits up taller to get a closer look at me. “You’re so big! And you’re beautiful! Beautiful! Are you really my baby? Am I really your mother? Look at you! You’re so beautiful!”

I step inside and extend my hand. She reaches out to hold it and draws me closer. Her eyes are bright and full of love. I feel it pour from her. I feel her love in a way I have no memory of experiencing before this moment. Pure mother love. No judgment. No conditions. No expectations. Pure love. I allow myself to soak it in. I’m hungry. I have been starving for it all of my life. And she gives it so freely and easily. Joyful tears roll down our cheeks. Her excitement is overwhelming as she says, “You’re really my Patty? You’re really my baby? My precious baby girl! You’ve grown into a beautiful woman! I love you. I love you. I love you!”

“Yes, Mom. Yes, I’m your baby. You’re my mom.” And tears and giggles of delight. Timeless. Eternal. Pure mother love. I am amazed at this display and I revel in it. And over and over again she cries out, “I love you!”

I give her a big hug and she reaches out to me, grabbing hold of my hand again. She holds me tight. And then we sit and visit and I tell her of my life, my husband, my child. She listens in rapt attention, watching every move I make. She looks at me in awe and wonder … a baby who has miraculously grown into a full-blown adult woman. She enjoys the story I tell as if she’s hearing about my life for the very first time. I show her pictures and she admires them.

She tells me, “You’re so beautiful. We were so excited when you were born! I told your father that finally we have a beautiful child. You know, there were six homely ones before you. But you were such a beautiful baby. And we were so happy that we didn’t get another homely one!”  And as she speaks, she giggles and smiles and appears to remember that moment of joy. I can’t contain myself. I laugh and laugh and laugh about the six homely ones that came before me.

We continue to visit, chatting with Alice about family members and life. As I leave to get a drink of water, with one foot outside the door, I hear her whisper to Aunt Alice, “Who is she?”  I freeze. Another reality check. Mom has “left the building” and she won’t be returning.

 As the time passed, we fell in love all over again. Mother and child.  I felt so very blessed to know and feel and experience that precious connection. To know love without any of the baggage. What a gift! If she had been in her “right” mind, it might have never happened. 

The experience of Mom’s dementia has taught me more about how we create our own unique reality. No one on the planet shares your personal perception of the way things are. No one else knows what it feels like to live in your body. No one has your thoughts, your beliefs or your experiences. Each one of us is creating our own unique world.

Everything is temporary and life is a series of moments. Fleeting, precious, unique moments. When we share our love in the now moment, it is timeless joy.




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