Friday, February 07, 2014

Friday Morning Coffee with WhatsHerFace

Last week, my Mom forgot my name.

I knew it was coming but it was still a surprise. I know. Everyone says that.

They say it because it's true.

She remembered all about my name, "It came from South Africa. Those special things. You know."

At the time of my birth, the diamond mines of South Africa were very special. Now, not so much.  I generally avoid telling people where my name comes from. Though when I think about it, my thoughts generally stray toward the irony that I ended up working in the human rights field in my pre-kid life (before the world knew of the horror stories of those mines).

But I digress... the point is, she knows the workings of my name... just not the name itself.

I'm okay with it.

Some people find it strange that I have accepted this development so readily. Perhaps my rather objective approach comes from some minor studies in university of brain chemistry and different forms of dementia. But I think more-so, it's that I really love the little old lady she's become, and I love my Dad for his easygoing attitude and I love watching their relationship evolve in such an accepting, caring way... which is the far bigger picture.


Fridays are my day off. My Mom looks forward to our Friday morning chats... which is interesting because she's never been a 'chatter'. But now she is.

I find it interesting that she has become a chatter because she has lost most of her vocabulary. The incongruity is particularly striking because she majored in English, taught English for over 30 years in three different countries, including English as a second language and has a Master's in education.

When I was a kid, she was always using big words. It drove me crazy as a teen, I would scream,

"Why can't you just use regular words???!?"

Her response, "Because I want you to be able to speak like a relatively, decently, educated human being."

My response, to what I deemed the banal: a typical teenage sigh and exit. I knew I wasn't going to win.


Our chat this morning was pretty much the same as every Friday. She tells me about all the animals she's feeding (countless cats - yes she's a crazy cat lady, a dog that seems stuck in it's terrible twos and all the birds in the near and far hemispheres), asks about our next visit and wakes up Dad to tell him something that could wait until later. The latter of which, I always find particularly amusing. In fact, it makes me smile... and even laugh out loud sometimes. This morning was a laugh out loud kind of day.

Part of the reason it's funny is because she has become that very kind little old lady who has one big quirk. If she wants to tell someone something, she doesn't care if they're sleeping.  She doesn't care that she doesn't have all the words she needs. It's important and no one should mind being woken for important information. Case in point, if I don't call her early enough on Friday morning, she will call me, even though she knows I work the late shift and don't get to sleep until around 3 a.m.

So as usual, part way through our conversation, which suddenly comes to a grinding halt because she looked out the dining room window, she brings me, on speakerphone, with her to wake Dad (who is a bit of a night-owl by nature) and says,

"The whosits have come to clear the thingamagig and whatsername is on the phone for our Friday morning chat. You know who I mean. Say hello."

Dad takes it all in stride, says hello to me, tells me he's good, says "Okay Dear," to her, which makes her happy, and then rolls over and goes back to sleep. I'm not even sure he was awake. I think he has learned to perform this response in his sleep.

I will laugh out loud thinking of this brief interruption for the rest of my lucid days... mostly because I adore the way my parents are so content with each other at this stage of their lives.

In some ways, this glitch in her brain in quite a gift. She is the most consistently happy that I've ever seen her in my lifetime. She doesn't get all bent out of shape if I mention my bio-Dad's name anymore because she doesn't remember him. She doesn't get impatient with people in general anymore as she used to in her cerebrally faster days. And she is still very high functioning.

As long as you leave her alone with her daily schedule of feeding everyone, she's perfectly fine. She knows what things are for and maintains all her safety practices. She just can't remember the words for all of the thingamagigs she uses.

Some people with dementia, or living with dementia get frustrated. My parents are taking it in stride and living day to day with a grace I wish everyone was blessed with.

Are there negatives? Sure there are. You can read about them on someone else's blog though. The negatives abound to such a degree that you can't escape hearing about them.

I, however, will not focus on that cascading waterfall of despair.

I will focus on "coffee with whatsherface" and laugh about it until the day that I too, will probably forget the words to tell the story with. If and when that point should come to pass, I take comfort in the idea that I will also be loved as the kind little old lady that spends her days feeding everyone.

Yes. My Mom has dementia. It's not always a bad thing... here in the Gray Zone.

For an interesting yet entertaining read on different forms of dementia, see: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat