Friday, August 04, 2006

The Casual Violations Of Alzheimer's Disease

We're private people.

Except for me, braying my woes about teh Intarweb, my family has always favored discretion over disclosure. This seems to me a perfectly sensible policy and Dr. Phil can go fuck himself, because we all know that too much familial truth is perhaps more unbearable than not enough. Hell, I was a teenager before I discovered my paternal grandfather had sired seven kids and then hied his sorry ass to Texas. I was in my thirties before I knew my mother had had a brief (and, I'm sure, tempestuous and romantic) marriage to a French soldier at the outset of WWII, before she met the man who would father me and be her husband for 52 years. Neither of these facts are particularly relevant to anything other than filling out the parental backstory, so to speak, no matter how much psychologists would like to believe otherwise.

But now it's different. As I daily dig through layers of stuff that Mom has accumulated, I find the kind of personal reminders and notes-to-self that give me an insight on my mother that I never had before. For instance, my Mom has sorted, stacked and tied with string every Sierra Club newsletter she's recieved in the past five years.

Mom has never recycled a can in her life. We brought him an injured baby bird home once, but the cat ate it.

And not just the Sierra Club. The Wilderness Society, the Nature Conservancy, Give Guns To Pandas, you name it. I haven't asked her where this eco-consciousness is coming from, because I fear that the answer is she probably sent one or more of them money and now she's on their sucker list.

And other things. A drawing. A smiling cat sketched on the back of a white paper bag. Broad, sweeping strokes. Beneath the portrait is written "Suki!" in curly girlish letters, the spike of the exclamation point bouncing on a a squat fat heart. I don't know who drew it. Mom didn't remember. Who knows how long it had been there.

And this is the surface. I've just gotten out the whisk broom. Wait'll it's time for the shovels. And Mom feels this, I think, as a violation. An intrusion, a meddling in her affairs. She squawked about me cleaning off the kitchen table today.

But just on that table I saw the sad neglect that comes with a mind newly unraveling. This all happened so fast. Last Christmas she was in my kitchen with my mother-in-law, clucking over the sweet potatoes and telling me I'd put too much salt in the green beans.

Eight months later, she can't remember what she had for lunch five minutes ago and is agitated when I tell her I've already brought the mail in. You're sure? Did you check? I checked. You're sure? Really, I am.

This will only get worse.

1 comment:

Jaim said...

Hang in there. It sounds like you're there for her as much as possible, and that's as much as anyone can do. Parents go from being these omnipotent creatures to mere mortals, and then back again. Hope things turn out well.