They say children don’t come with instructions but I have learned, neither do the elderly. Do you laugh? Cry? Maybe you should just pet the damned elephant in the back yard. For many years I teased my Mother because our family is notorious for not talking about the elephant in the room. Then one day out of the blue folks got old. The ones I grew up following around like a puppy suddenly don’t know who I am. It’s OK though. Apparently they don’t know who they are either.
The people I spent my summers with throughout my childhood are but standing shells now. It occurred to me yesterday that they will probably never get to come home again. The home they have lived in for as far back as my memory goes now stands as a reminder of lives gone. My brother and I spent endless hours with a deck of cards carefully creating houses in her perfectly plush carpet. She taught me the joys of a good dress shop. I know, I speak as if they’re in the ground though they still walk this earth. The ones I knew are gone now. In their place stands haunting bones with mouths to speak but not a memory left. I will not torment myself with hope.
When my Granny faced this challenge it was these two who saw her through to the end. She tore paneling from the walls, made pies with no sugar and left bruises on her caregivers as they desperately tried to keep her dignity. Now they walk in her shoes. Dignity is no where to be found in those who spent their lives keeping up appearances.
So, what have I learned? If you work hard and save your pennies it will all be taken for your medical care. You will be cruel to the ones who love you most. One morning you wake up with a mission on your mind. You throw on some jeans under your gown tail, chunk a bra in your purse and of course an olive oil cruet. Jump in your car and start driving until you can no longer remember how. The fighting spirit is still in there though you have no idea what you’re fighting for. Whatever you do, don’t forget to feed the concrete statues in your yard before you leave.
Yeah, dementia sucks.