Monday, January 19, 2015

Hearing Voices

Today was a rough day to be my mother's daughter.

Mom dialed me up this afternoon, an extra phone call between our two regularly scheduled daily check-ins.

This is rarely a good sign.

^ My maternal grandmother, Clara Minnie Marie Belz Lewis, with a toddler version of me. I always loved and admired her pretty house dresses and braided German up-dos. 

^ My brothers and I made up an amazing game, called "Squeeze Grandma's Earring." I wonder if she enjoyed it half as much as we did.

Sure, enough, her dementia-fueled anger and anxiety were clearly raging, but Mom's two grievances were soundly grounded in fact.

Did I, or did I not, tell all of her good friends to go away? 

Well, in a manner of speaking, that is true. The aides who have served Mom for the past thirteen months are nice ladies who ran her errands, tidied her house, cooked some of her meals and kept her company for a few hours a week. But these women have no training in how to care for people with dementia, and as Mom's disease has progressed from moderate to severe, their lack of expertise was no longer acceptable. So this was their last week for serving her, and Mom is now in the infinitely more capable hands of her qualified caregivers, whom she has also come to know and love over the last three months.

Did I know that my brother has withdrawn a very large sum of money from her savings account and is using it to pay for all these @#$%^ aides?

Hmm. Yes, it's true that my brother has had to cash out some of Mom's investments in order to pay for her home care. But that care is absolutely essential to Mom's well-being, and sadly, that's just the way life has to be.

* * * * *

Rather than argue or disagree or try to parse these fine points of logic with her, I simply sat quietly and let my mother rage at me.

And boy, did she ever let me have it.

She said that I had ruined her life.
She hoped I was happy that all her money was being wasted on aides she does not want or need.
And she told me, at least ten times, that she never, ever wants to see me again.

Goodness. This isn't the first time that my mom has spoken such harsh words to me, but it's not the sort of thing that one gets used to hearing.

I know this isn't really my mother.
This is her illness.
This outburst was the work of an insidious disease, and I am not to take it to heart.

Still, these words are hard to bear.

^ Carl Allen Rex Lewis (yes, his initials spell out his first name) was a mid-century gadget guy with a special passion for Polaroid cameras. This photo was taken by the clerk at the drug store who was selling Grandpa the first of several models he would eventually own.

^ In a shockingly rare moment, Grandpa agreed to let someone else operate the camera so he could pose in the shot with me (the thumb-sucker) and my older brother. This is the only photo I have that shows my grandpa and me together. 

But in the midst of this mad chaos, there is a quiet, still voice that calms me. Two voices, in fact.

This may sound trippy and weird, but they are the voices of my grandparents. My mother's parents, Clara and Carl, who have long since passed from this world into the next.

In the small spaces between my mother's hateful words, my grandparents whisper to me.

Thank you, they say.
Thank you for protecting our little girl.
Thank you for doing what is best for her.
Thank you for taking care of her when we cannot take care of her ourselves.

Now, I can't be sure if this is truly communication from the spirit world, my active imagination, or just wishful thinking, but I can understand how a parent's love for their child might be that powerful and transformational and real.

I'll be honest. The idea that my grandparents are sending loving support not only to my mom but also to me is a source of great peace and comfort.

And on days like today, I am grateful for all the help I can get.

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