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maskEditor: This is the fourth part of a book written by my close friend about her mother’s journey with old age and dementia. To read all of it, click here. In the previous part, Barbara was not responding to Sophie at all. When Barbara decided to go to the bathroom, Sophie decided to clean out her night table and found what she thought was a type of restraint device. 

Do they use this on her? My imagination went a bit wild as my heart quickened. I don’t want to over react as I tend to do that when it comes to my Mommy.

It’s clear to me I’m going to have to find out if this is actually what it’s for. If one of the aides had to protect themselves from her and so had to use it.

I certainly do not want anyone to get hurt in any way. I just want to know everything that happens that relates to my Mommy’s care.

I do know she is capable of immense strength.

I do know she uses her fists to lash out if someone does not explains things to her but tries to make her do something she does not want to do.

If someone touches her arm, back or shoulder from behind, that she did not see coming, she is known to pivot around and hit them, a natural reaction to defend herself. She must feel in danger or something.

If she is woken up from a sound sleep, sometimes a tight fist is lifted in defence. I’ve witnessed it first hand not only to me but done to others unexpectedly.

If she comes out swinging she usually is very loud verbally as well. It’s like she can defend herself and wastes no time doing so. I like that spirit in her.

My siblings and I have learned our lesson well, that startling her is not the answer. We have learned to communicate with her so she understands what is requested of her and we listen to her response.

I put the strap back in the drawer and completed the task of cleaning the rest of the drawers out. Then I sat down and waited, having calmed myself down and keeping my imagination in check.

Out of my peripheral vision I saw movement. I turned my head to see her coming back. I stood up and went towards her. She walked past me as I realize she is aiming for her bed again. Instead she looks at the other bed that is in the room and says quietly as though talking to herself, I think I’ll pick this bed.”

I carefully said, “Mom that’s some else’s bed, your bed is the other one.”

She turned slowly, focusing only on reaching her own bed and sitting down. I remained respectful of her space.

She is aware of me now but there is no recognition in her eyes only mild awareness.

I ask her gently, “Would you like to go for a walk Mom?”

She looks right at me with a blurry eyed look and says calmly and slowly, “I don’t know what I want to do or where I want to go, I just don’t know.”

“It is such a lovely day, lets go out and see all the pretty flowers.” I said encouragingly.

Without a single word she got up and walked out into the hallway. I quickly grabbed her sunglasses for her then caught up to her easily and slipped my hand into her limp hand. I had to hold on as her grasp was not apparent today.

Once in the big room, getting close to the sunny filled open door where all the flowers are, she put her sunglasses on then stopped suddenly and abruptly. “Not out there.” she said firmly, slightly annoyed.

“I have to go to the bathroom now.” she said in a dull voice.

“We can go back to your room again then.” I said softly.

Back in her room she shuffled slowly to the bathroom without a backward glance.

She came out a few minutes later. “I don’t know what to do now.” she said, looking puzzled, as she sat down.

I replied gently, “Well, we can stay right here as you seem very comfortable and we can play cards.”

There was no reply as she shifted her body, leaning on her side on her left elbow, knees bent as she began to re-arrange her cards in numerical piles on the bed in the same colours.

All the red in a one row, all the black in another row, again another red row and another black row all numbered from the One to the King. Some piles have four sevens, some have only two threes or five sixes.

Her concentration is amazing as she re-stacks each pile to appear in an even row. It’s obvious to me it’s not how many are in each of the piles. She then counts silently, pointing with her finger at each number. Then she starts on another row. Even the smallest action seems to contain infinite richness and profound meaning only to her.

All the while she is doing this her neck and head suspended at an angle with no support. She must have very strong neck muscles. Rather impressive.

I’m trying not to think, only observe my Mommy who does not seem like my Mommy at all today. Yet thoughts pop into my head. What is her process of thinking as she deftly maneuvers the cards, totally engrossed, her movements precise?

Is it instinct that moves her forward as we know it, that is required for her to function? Or is the need to stimulate her brain of paramount concern for her that she is not even aware of, just doing it naturally and instinctively?

What instinct or memory makes that possible? I don’t really know, but I sure am fascinated and in wonder at her creative ability to stimulate herself using cards. She was always an intelligent, quick witted person with a sharp mind and a very eloquent conversationalist.

I rest my chin on my hands watching intently almost willing her to be aware of me. But she is barely aware of me. But then this is not about me or any of my siblings, as I’ve learned through this process. My feelings are separate to what she needs and requires and I trust my feelings.

Our conversation was minimal due to her concentration on her cards. It seemed more important to acknowledge her need to be in the moment. Recognizing this shows me I have come a long way in understanding her needs. We are all gaining so much along the way.

Less than an hour later I reluctantly said, “It’s time for me to go Mom.”

“What? You’re going to leave me? she said wearily.

“Yes, Mom, but you know I’ll be back, I always come back!” I said reassuringly.

She shuffles down the corridor with me to the exit. I lean in to embrace her and gently double kiss her cheek. She does not embrace me back but leans towards me, surprising me, gently brushing her lips with mine, that I could barely feel. Almost like a butterfly kiss using eyelashes when done on a cheek. She smiles tenderly as it reaches her eyes for the first time today and just as quickly it’s gone.

“Bye Mommy, I love you!” I say warmly.

She smiles slightly saying, “Bye, bye.”

As I exit the locked door, I see her still watching me. I feel a tug at my heart as I linger, overcome with tenderness as I wave. She waves back as she turns around to go in the direction of her room. My throat fills with emotion as I walk away. It’s always been hard for me to leave her.

All I can do is love her, try to enjoy the moment, no matter what and to stand by her unconditionally.

If she does or doesn’t recognize me, so be it as long as she is content and happy. This is about her, after all.

That’s how I feel today, but I did not always feel that way. The next chapter will begin near the beginning of her journey, roughly fifteen years ago, the unforgettable story of courage and resilience and the process me and my siblings have almost come to terms with.

Human nature is amazing, what we experience and go through and just how resilient in the face of the unknown that we are all capable of being. Our Mommy proves that everyday.

To be continued…

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