Thursday, December 08, 2016

they say we need to speak it out loud

i didn't realize it, but the signs were already there two years ago. my mother's obsession with the notion that someone would steal her purse was a sign. i remember how utterly bewildered i felt. here was my mother, who drove me and my horses on threadbare tires all over a 7-state region, by herself, walking a mile once in the dark beside a pitch black interstate to get help when something broke down, leaving her sleeping children in the back of the pickup and the horses stomping in the trailer, munching on hay as she set off into the starlit night, semi trailers lumbering past, shaking the whole vehicle. and she came back with help and we were on our merry way, none the wiser to the stop in the night. that fearless, fierce woman, suddenly afraid the aggressively perfect (and quite attractive) danish father, leaning on his volvo in his mads nørgaard clothes, waiting for his 12-year-old and her friends to leave the one direction concert, was going to reach in the window and steal her over-stuffed with snacks and kleenex bulging no-brand midwestern purse. um, what? i was confused. frustrated. and a little bit pissy.

the way she kept getting lost in our house. seriously. it's one story, it's the shape of an H and we're honestly only using the middle and the right half of it, it's not difficult. the way she wandered away in the middle of the party, missing all of the toasts and speeches. i thought she was just badly-indoctrinated into the social mores i had taken to me like water to a sponge. or perhaps that she had just been badly raised and i never noticed. (watching americans eat, all fork and no knife, can make you think that.)

i don't know why i didn't realize it then. her mother had alzheimer's as well. but it didn't really occur to me at the time. i chalked it up to the ridiculousness of the morning news in the headlines about the latest scams and calamities that make you tune in again after the commercial. that could make anyone fearful.

and i felt sad that the woman who i felt taught me my very fearlessness (which is one of my biggest sources of pride) had become some inexplicably fearful. how could this happen? and seriously, who thinks that someone will steal their purse on a plane? where would they go with it, honestly? but i know now that it was a sign. it was the big a, the scarlet letter, of a much more sinister sort. she will eventually be stripped of everything she once was...fearless, funny, active. she, who got her motorcycle driver's license at 60, and began pistol shooting lessons at 70, will lose everything of who she was.

and i don't know what to do or think or feel. the whole gamut of emotions courses through me...sadness, impatience, anger, and yes, fear...what if it happens to me? can i do anything to prevent it. i'm terrible at names, is that a sign? i occasionally struggle to find a that a sign? i switch subjects and can be moody...are they signs? is it all downhill from here for me as well? will i recognize it, if it is? she doesn't, which is both a source of frustration and a blessing. but how can you not? when you are a navel gazer like me, don't you know? is she really hiding from herself at that level?

i fear that maybe she is. i don't know where i got it, but my notion that an unexamined life is not worth living clearly did not come from my mother. i fear i may have actually gotten it from madonna. which is surely the stuff of a separate blog post.

does she know deep down? does she feel the fog descending? does she understand? or is she really blissfully unaware? is that one of the symptoms? so many questions. and we are only just beginning to look for answers.


Molly said...

Shew Julie, that is HARD.
When I read your FB post about your Dad's birthday this week I wondered how your Mother was doing. Did she deteriorate more rapidly after he died? A friend of mine is going through that now.
Very sad and concerning.
Sorry friend.

Jody Pearl said...

A brave and well written post Julie - a scary time for everyone.

At a certain age I think we all start thinking more about how it will end and Dementia is like rubbing salt into the wound...isnt dying enough?! Like yourself I too notice lapses in memory and can struggle with finding the right word however I'd like to think that as long as I live with purpose it was worth it...and if one of my daughters remembers me fondly enough to sing my praises as you have just done for your mum that'll be the icing on top.

I'm a big fan of Richard Fidler podcasts and I think you may find this one poignant.

Jody x