What Did She Say???


What Did She Say???

(Editor's Note: Today, we welcome Lisa, who cares for her mom, to our blogging team. Our Community Caregiving Journal inspired her first post. You can connect with Lisa on her profile page: @lisamoles.)

hot-air-balloon-306007_640A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post on the Benefits of Being a Caregiver that ended up being two lists. The first list was what I thought my Top 10 would look like and the second list was what it was really like.

One of the things I thought I would love about staying home and caring for my mom was learning more about her past--her childhood, that side of my family, what she loved and what her dreams were. I even bought one of those books to write it all down in. But that's all gone. Alzheimer's has taken it, like so many other things, and it's never coming back.

It's all mixed up in her head. Memories and movie clips and dreams and conversations and other people's lives and Alzheimer's. All floating around. Coming to the surface in no particular order and with no clear lines between real and imagined.

So instead of learning my family history from tidy Q and A sessions with mom, I am learning to listen for clues. Not from questions, but from her murmurs. The conversations she has with people I can't see. Who may or may not have existed. Conversations and songs and whispers that I OVERHEAR.

Mom naps. Quite a bit. Short naps most of the time, but it's during and immediately following those naps that I get to OVERHEAR her stories. Sometimes she talks to people. Sometimes she talks to herself! Sometimes she asks questions and I wait, quiet as a mouse, to see if an answer is coming.  Sometimes she tells me stories.

Stories about people she knew. Stories about conversations I know she never had. Stories about things she did long ago. And stories about things she must have wished she did. About places she always wanted to go.

Mom ran track and played basketball in school. But in her stories, she pitched baseball and played football and tennis. Not a lot of details on her football playing days, but according to her, she loved it! Mom played the cello when she was younger and sang in the choir. But in her dreams she played the drums and sang in movie musicals. She didn't actually say that she starred alongside Gene Kelly, but I feel certain she did. He was always her favorite.

Sometimes, she'll awake from a dream calling out a familiar name--usually my Daddy's and that makes me sad. She asks about her mom and dad. She asks if her Grandma is coming to pick her up. I just say "not today". I can't stand to see the grief in her eyes when she realizes they are gone.

I like the football and singing and imaginary conversations she apparently has with our dog, Sophie.

And I hope--I pray--that somewhere in her jumble, she is remembering happy times. Or happy dreams. Or inventing a place that is still vibrant and fun and warm and full of people and activities she enjoys.

I may not be discovering my roots, but if I listen, I am discovering my mom's happier place.


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Lisa M

Anita, I just read your chocolate chip cookie response...clearly, we are kindred spirits!

Donna Bates

Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing. I get syllable now from my caree, not full words. My communication is a puzzle of sounds. First thing in the morning I get a full sentence after I help her dress. She says, \"Now what can I do for you?\" I always give her a hug and say, \"Just love me.\"