I had fallen into a routine of working, visiting till dinnertime and weekends spending the whole day with her. I would bring coffee from Dunkin Donuts with me every time and she would love it. She hardly ever finished her coffee but the simple act of holding the cup in her hands, of knowing the cup was there, was a comfort to her.

On this particular day I had found a bakery to get some Italian goodies. I brought cannolis with custard in them. These were her favorite and in the days before dementia they would have been out of the box immediately. Now, though, they sat in the box untouched. She was animated, she spoke a lot. I couldn’t understand any of it. Her thoughts were scattered and I could not follow the delusions. There were so many and she would switch back and forth between them until they were all jumbled together. I learned to just nod my head and say simple things like “yes,” “no,” and “wow.” This worked. There is no real conversation in this situation because you don’t know what to say that might be relevant to her current delusion. She never knew I didn’t understand what she was talking about. Every once in a while there would be something I could discern might be from some little shred of reality but most of it was just ramblings.

She went on and on and the cannolis sat uneaten. The coffee sat in the cup getting cold. I sat across from her smiling, though, because she looked happy. She was completely unaware just how sick she was. Her ignorance was bliss. 
I had also brought her some magazines. She couldn’t really read much but she liked looking at the pictures. My boss was an avid scuba diver and would give me her scuba magazines after she read them. I had subscriptions to some other magazines that I would bring in for my mom too. She would look through them while I was there and then ferret them away into her bureau when I was gone. She had become a pack rat. I suppose she had always been a pack rat, but this was different. In her purse, which she insisted on carrying around with her in the nursing home, I would see things like forks and spoons. I would quietly remove them when she wasn’t looking. 

This was what our visits were like. I cherished the time, though, and decided that I needed to start capturing it in pictures and video. I was going to need these memories to carry me through and to remember once she was gone. I tried not to think about that. I tried not to think about how short a time my grandmother was in a nursing home (also with dementia) before her heart just stopped one day and she was gone. It was just over a year. I hoped I would have at least a year with my mom. I vowed to spend as much time with her as I could. I silently prayed that she would not end up catatonic like some of the residents. I somehow got through. Like putting one foot in front of the other I got through one day before the next. This is how it went. I can’t say I did not shed many tears. I shed lots of them. 

Every day when I would get up to leave she would try to come with me. She would say things like “Yes, it’s time to go. Let’s go. I need to get to the house. And I need to find my car. I have to get to California and drive over the Golden Gate Bridge.” She was obsessed with it. Since I was now driving her car I was afraid to take her out. I was scared what it would do to her to see me driving her car and if she would get angry and demand to drive it herself, which she could obviously no longer do. It broke my heart anew every day when I had to say good bye and leave her there. I always left with a hug, a kiss, an I love you and a promise that I would be back before she knew it. It was  hard, SO hard!


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