Monday, March 19, 2012

Forget to Remember

My Mother passed away on February 2nd after suffering a massive stroke. She was found unconscious on the floor of her bathroom at the nursing home she'd been living in for the past eight months. She had lived there since my Father passed away in June. My sister Gina and I had moved her from her house in the suburbs to a dementia unit in the city so she could be closer to us.

She'd been suffering from dementia most likely for the past five or six years. I say "most likely" because she'd only been diagnosed and medicated since she moved into the nursing home. Before then, she and my Father were in denial as the upkeep of their home and health declined.

I recently wrote a one woman show about the series of events that have taken place over the past eight months (Truth Be Told). It addresses living with my Mother's dementia, my transition from being her daughter to her caregiver, my rather confusing childhood narrative, losing both my parents within a short period of time, selling my childhood home, uncovering family secrets of soap opera proportions, and the importance of living a truthful life.

The process of writing the show and performing it once in front of an audience was cathartic. It will be even more cathartic in July when I perform it six times for Fleetwood Jourdain Theatre in Evanston, Illinois.

I've realized that as much as I covered in the one woman show, there is more of this story that I want to share; for my sake and others. People have told me that they relate to my experiences and appreciate my putting their feelings into words. That is the very reason I write.

So I will use "Writing My Mind" as an outlet to talk about this period of time where the circumstances of my life forced me to confront the very notion of who I am as a daughter, woman, Mother, wife, and sister.

I'll share what I learned, what I'm still trying to understand, some helpful information for current or future caregivers, as well as my concerns about elder care, bureaucracy, and how to help a friend in the midst of tragedy.

I am not an expert but in this case, I took a crash course in the school of life and discovered a great deal.

When I address these topics I'll put them under the title "Forget to Remember" because at this juncture one of my biggest challenges is how to grieve the loss of my Mother; a woman I adored.

It has been difficult not to dwell on her last days in the hospital as she lay in a coma. It's been hard not to think of her as a woman who lived in a nursing home whom I feared would not remember me the next time I visited. It's been challenging to accept that it took so long to realize she had dementia and recognize how it affected the last four or five years of our relationship. Now as I connect the dots I can understand behavior that seemed out of character, hurtful, confusing.

I can barely think about my Father because it's unnatural to grieve two people at once. But I can't escape the image of him meek in his hospital bed. It pains me to realize how he started calling more frequently the last six months of his life before I knew he was sick. I don't know if he knew he was sick and didn't tell us. If he did know, how sad to think he suffered alone.

I am still frustrated that it was so hard to get him to go to the hospital and how impossible it was to convince him to get my Mother professional help.

Now, I navigate the world as an orphan; in my opinion too soon. It is unknown territory to be in this world without the unconditional love they gave me. I'll explore that here.

At the same time, because these topics are at the forefront of my mind, I "forget to remember" the other things about my parents. Memories that could sustain me while I grieve, escape me.

I'll share my memories of two extraordinary people I called Mommy (Mah-mee) and Daddy (Dah-dee)

Not every post will cover these topics. I hope when they do, you find a piece that is helpful to you.

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