Guys, I need help.
When I started this blog it was to share my ideas, experiences and (dare I say) wisdom with anyone who cared to listen. If you do follow GA, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything in a while. That’s because I’ve been struggling with the reality of being a caregiver to an aging parent…with dementia.
Honestly, it’s not helping my mom with the housework that it is the problem. I don’t mind doing her laundry and cleaning her house. I don’t mind taking out the garbage or helping her at the grocery store. I don’t mind driving her to her doctor appointments and having brutally honest discussions with her doctors about her current health. And even though it’s not pleasant, I don’t mind having to change her bed linens after the occasional incontinence.
What is killing me is that this thief, called dementia, is stealing my childhood from my mother’s memory.
I can’t say that my mother and I were ever really very close. Circumstances during my childhood kind of left me to tend to myself emotionally, but I’m not bitter over that. I am bitter that somewhere in my mother’s brain live the happy memories of raising my two older brothers but my childhood is but a shadow. Gone are the memories of birthday parties, high school dances, graduations and achievements. Even the precious few “mother-daughter” moments we shared have been erased, lost in a maze of dying synapses.
I’m bitter and I’m jealous. I’m jealous that she can fondly look back on the little league games of my brothers or the boy scout meetings she organized when she was their den mother. I’m hurt that she can recount the details of games they played at birthday parties and can even remember details of their infancy. She remembers little of my childhood and even most of my adult years. As an overachiever kid who spent so much time and energy trying to be responsible and scholarly, a kid who did everything she could to get her parents’ attention, this feels like a slap in my face.
And worst of all I feel alone in this whole process. My logical side tells me I’m not alone. My husband has gone above and beyond to be a support system for me and to help my mother continue to live independently. My brother and sister-in-law have done the best they can to offer support from afar. I know they have my back. I also have a group of friends who are struggling with the same issues with their own parents and they have listened to my confessions with love and compassion.
But it’s my childhood that is being stolen. Not my husband’s. Not my brother’s. And I feel alone in my anguish.
So as this disease progresses and I learn to cope with the pain of watching my mother forget me, I need to know that I’m not alone in this journey. I need to know that if I wake up in the middle of the night with a heart-pounding panic attack and come to my “white space” I’ve created on this blog, someone will hold my hand and tell me I’m doing the right thing and talk me off the cliff.
I need to know I’m not alone.