UPDATE | Mom’s Dementia

mom_birthday“I swear, my memory lasts two seconds,” Mom said, leaning forward with a big smile.

We sat at her favorite restaurant, Ruby Tuesday’s. Her days of fine dining with my restaurateur dad are long gone. She’s comfortable at this chain restaurant. She never gets tired of it. As she says, “I haven’t eaten at Ruby Tuesday’s in ages,” even if it has only been two weeks since our last dinner out.

Since my last blog post about Mom, she quickly went down hill. We went through a hellish year in which she kept getting lost while driving and kept giving her social security and credit card numbers to shysters. We kept believing her when she said she had a grip on things, that this time she would remember not to answer the phone when strangers called and not to drive anywhere that wasn’t inside her safety zone.

Finally, we had to accept reality, and she had to accept our intervention. She no longer drives or manages her own money. We hired a caretaker to come around during the day. My sister buys her groceries, and I take her to her doctor’s appointments.

The thing about it is, she’s lost so much memory that she’s no longer anxious about it. This is a relief, in a way, but it’s also heartbreaking. She used to rail against her condition. Now she doesn’t seem to care much.

Last night I arrived at her house to search for memorabilia from my dad’s restaurateur days. I was asked to write a guest blog for the fantastic Jungle Red Writers blog. (If you read crime fiction, you’ve got to check it out!) I was honored, and I also panicked because I needed my dad’s famous coffee toffee pie recipe for the blog post. Of course, my mom couldn’t remember where the memorabilia was stored–or even what I was talking about. And I couldn’t find it. Which meant she might have thrown it out, not remembering its significance to us daughters.

I could feel myself freezing up like I do when I’m upset and frustrated. But I couldn’t bitch at Mom. How could I? I gave up the hunt, and we went to Ruby Tuesday’s. I re-explained the importance of the memorabilia, especially the recipe. She blinked, apparently startled. “Oh, we should find that stuff for you.”

“Yes, Mom, I already looked, and I couldn’t find it. Don’t worry, I’ll ask Nicole. She probably has it.” (Crossing my fingers…)

Mom’s gaze clouded over. Now befuddled, she turned the menu over and back. “What do I want to eat?”

She’d decided on the shrimp parmesan pasta not two minutes previously. I reminded her. She said, “I swear, my memory lasts two seconds.”

As always, she beamed as she said it. As always, she went on to joke that her crappy memory sure comes in handy when she’s watching Law & Order reruns.


P.S. My sister, Nicole, who lives in California, scanned everything I need to write the Jungle Reds guest post. Whew! Look for it this Sunday.

The Fine Art of Letting Go

Sometimes there’s no answer but to breath deep.

Last time I wrote a blog post, over six months ago, the ramifications of my mother’s dementia hadn’t sunk in. My sisters and I thought she’d maintain her then level of dottiness for at least a few years. Talk about ignorance being bliss! There’s nothing like senile dementia to make me–the daughter who didn’t sail into adulthood gracefully, the daughter who longed to remain forever a pseudo-adult–to…well…grow up. I’ve had to let go of the notion that I’m fancy-free, that I can succumb to my wanderlust at anytime.

Might as well have told me that I’d have to chop off a leg.

In the last six months, I’ve also let go of the notion that I can continue on with no health insurance, working as little as I can get away with so that I can write fiction. Full-time job, here I come, and, believe me, I’m ambivalent.

And, last but not least, I’ve let go of the notion that I’ll land the perfect agent and land a fabulous publishing contract. Not saying that it couldn’t happen, only that it’s not a slam-dunk, and that given the new indie world of small presses and self-publishing, I can now do what I want. I know so many established novelists who are self-publishing, yet, it’s like cutting off the other leg to let go of my dream of the fancy New York agent and editor.

Make decisions about Mom’s care…Make decisions about my financial and physical wellbeing…Make decisions about how to achieve readership. Sounds like full-fledged adulthood to me.

Truth: I’ve been holding on so tight to my cherished notions about myself, my lifestyle, and my dreams that I’ve squeezed the life out of them.

I titled this post “The Fine Art of Letting Go,” but I don’t know if there’s a fine art to letting go. It’s effing demoralizing and frustrating and depressing. In my case, there’s been a lot of screaming while I drive (cathartic) and crying into my pillow (not so cathartic).

What I do know is this: holding tight is all about the ego, and my ego is the ultimate harridan. She’s a beady-eyed, shriveled thing who points her finger at me, sneers, and says, Choke down that humble pie, oh unpublished novelist. You’re a failure at the one dream you’ve ever had and now what will everyone on Facebook think of you?

Hard to ignore the ego sometimes, but the truth is that I’ve got to deal with what I’ve got to deal with: family, finances, health care…All that boring, unspecial stuff. I’m just like everyone else, after all.

I may not know squat about the fine art of letting go, but I gotta hope that there’s a fine art of letting IN new possibilities. That’s what I’m working on now.