Family? I don’t know them.

It’s sad to me how much my mother believes in the fantasy of “family.” She is of the school that “blood is thicker than water.” And at one time in her life it was true, but it has since diluted. For me it never existed, because I saw through my families bullshit and lies.

Lies may be a harsh word. I should just say empty promises. The words these people speak mean nothing to them, but unfortunately so much to my mother. She believes them, because at her core she would never say something she didn’t mean.

One of my cousin’s (I forget whom) had a problem with my mother because if you invited her to any event she will attend. That thought angers me for two very specific reasons: 1) why wouldn’t you want her there? and 2) is it such a bad thing to be able to depend on someone, no matter what?

When she was firing on all cylinders, she was the most giving woman to ever have existed. (She still is, by the way, she just lacks the capacity to do as much as she wants.) She would go absolutely out of her way if you asked her to. The only problem is she (subconsciously) expects that in return, and it’s not going to happen.

This morning my mother ruminated on how she had taken care of both my aunts when they had cancer and my father through his many ailments. Both of my aunts would eventually succumb to their illnesses (and my father on an unrelated injury tied to one of his many issues.) Before they had passed, she was there every step of the way. She would make the 2 hr drive down to see my aunts as often as she could without complaint because it was just what family did for one another.

Rewind many years and my mother was there for my cousin’s as they were growing up. I am in a weird spot in my family line, because all of my first cousin’s were having children when I was born. So I grew up with my second cousins. During the years before she met my father, she was the bad ass aunt who took her nieces and nephews to every southern california theme park, took them shopping, did whatever she could to give them a good childhood. She was the one they ran to when they “ran away from home.”

Returning to reality… Here we are as her mind is disintegrating and where are they? Where is this family that is supposed to come and help? They don’t even have to do anything, just visit. Sit there and reminisce. Chat. But they are nowhere. And in the end, for me, that’s fine. It further cements the notion that blood means fuckall. Yeah, you share a genetic code, but that doesn’t mean they give a shit about you.

The thing that does upset me with their absence, is that these ungrateful pieces of shit are hurting her. She languishes in isolation and wonders why no one visits her. It’s heartbreaking to watch and one I can’t answer for her, without sounding angry or bitter.

My mother loves to wax poetic that “your family loves you.” (Speaking to me, about me.) No, they don’t. They really don’t. They tolerate me or “accept” my existence. But love is being there for someone, no matter the cost. Love is not empty words spoken to make you look good, but carry no weight behind them.

Chocolate Smiles

Alzheimer’s is strange. Honestly, if she has to have some debilitating sickness, I wish my mother could have been diagnosed with anything else. At least then there is a possibility of a cure or recovery. With this it is just a trudge to the end. And in the end, it takes everything from you.

My mother is, mentally, a child. Well, preteen. She gets excited for visits, loves cookies, and watches romantic comedies like they’re going out of style. Really, she’s me circa 13 years old. Back when I still had hope.

The childishness was never more prevalent than a couple weeks ago when the husband and I took a trip to see my cousin’s new born. The husband had made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and brought them to her, which she insisted bringing half with us on our road trip.

She left them sitting in the sun so they got gooey and the chocolate started to melt. This new state of cookie existence did not stop her. She chomped away happily.

I was not aware of this until she made a garbled statement from the backseat and I turned to see her with a chocolate grin and matching fingers.

The husband doesn’t believe in tissues or napkins in his car (“cause I’m an adult that doesn’t make messes”). So we had to make due with a handkerchief (previously owned and used by my grandmother) and a bag.

What this event taught me was I need to carry wet wipes whenever my mother is around. Maybe even a diaper bag for good measure.

The more upsetting aspect of this is that while my mother is mentally a child, she is also still an adult. And she still believes that regardless to the facts to the contrary. So I am left to walk this fine line between being a son and being a caretaker.

It sucks.

This week we finally see a doctor for the growing list of her maladies. And hopefully in it get the final letter I need to get power of attorney. There is no doubt I will achieve my goal, it just means a legal turning point in this whole saga.

All down hill from here

As is custom, when I sit on the edge of a new year I take a look back at the previous one. And it must be said that 2019 was quite the train wreck. All the politics and world issues aside, my personal life was a rollercoaster.

Going chronologically, it started off great. In February of last year I passed my real estate appraisal licensing exam (on the third try) and officially became an appraiser. Then in May I was awarded my AA degree, summa cume laude (then proceeded to transfer to a more distinguished college campus). And in the space between these two landmark achievements, I felt empowered and returned to editing my novel (because nothing could stop the success train!)

I got halfway through my revisions before life turned on a goddamn dime.

The first punch to the gut was my mother getting, officially, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. (Prior to that a nurse practitioner diagnosed her weird mental failings as being under too much stress.) Her loss of memories be damned, it was her erratic and bizarre behavior that finally showed my father and I the ugly truth we had been denying.

Following that my grandmother was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She was given a month to live and that she did. She passed away in the early morning hours after everyone had left her to rest.

Immediately after that death, my father fell and hit his head while taking his morning piss. (His third time falling that week.) He arrived at the hospital unresponsive and stayed that way until I gave the order to let him rest. He was gone in less than a minute, surrounded by his family.

Since then it has been failure after failure as I struggle to balance my job, my academic life, my romantic relationships, and being the sole caretaker for my mother. I try to keep up but I’m always letting someone down or forgetting to do something.

This had been the way of things until very recently…

After my husband had his weight loss surgery he began to have issues with his balance and walking. It got to be so worrisome that he was sent to a neurologist who ordered MRIs of both his brain and spine, and who gave an early diagnosis of “pressure on the spine.” He has since had them and now we wait for that news to hit us across the face.

To say that 2019 fucked me up would be an understatement. It bludgeoned me and left me on the side of the road to die.

But all is not lost…

This notion that at the stroke of midnight we are all given new lives and new opportunities is ridiculous. In reality we have that at all times. Even when things are shitty. Every moment is new and undiscovered. We get to forge new paths everyday. But just like any route the terrain is vastly different from the one that came before it. How you navigate through it depends solely on your willingness to keep going.

I am glad this year is done. But the shit storm that has become my life will only get progressively worse. It’s just the path I tread. However, I will take every moment I can to find happiness. I will surround myself with love and companionship to remind myself that in the end all that matters is what we did with the time we were given.

Familiar Strangers

It almost seems as though my mother has a list of specific “Dementia To-Do” items she must accomplish. At first it was leaving the gas on all night and now we’ve moved onto inviting strangers into her house.

The event happened in a small window of time when my mother’s care taker went home (aka next door) to take care of some business. When she returned my mother informed her she had invited a man in. Panicked, her caretaker texted me immediately and asked me to review the tapes to see if she was telling the truth or if it was a delusion.

I immediately went to the ring app and followed the trail of recordings to see that she was telling her the truth.

When I questioned her about it the following day, she told me that she thought it was my “friend Josh.” I just let it go because I could tell she understood the gravity of what she had done. I also think she would have gotten upset if I had pressed her further, so I let the subject die. Hopefully this is a fluke, but I’m certain it will happen again.

As I review her response a few things pop into my mind. The number one thought is, is she lying to me? For someone who was so honest before her disease took over (so much so that she told me when I was 4 that there was no Santa Clause, cause she hated lying to me), she has become the polar opposite of that. She has no qualms with bending the truth or flat out denying things to me now. She will send them out without any remorse because the ultimate goal (in her mind) is to preserve her presence in her home. Any negative action on her part threatens that. And quite frankly it does.

The reason I think it was a lie is because when I reviewed the recordings she never once made any cues that she thought he was my boyfriend. She just offered to let him sit on her porch and read his book while he waited for his friend, who was at the neighbors house. Then when he followed her up the walk she (without hesitation) invited him inside. Once inside he asks her if she’s ever read the book “Fight Club.” The video ends and five minutes later the next one begins with him leaving and rejoining his buddy out front. She stands intent at the kitchen sink doing something (I know it’s not dishes because she only rinses utensil and plates and puts them back in the drawer.)

The other thought that has been percolating in my mushy gray is, did she really believe that it was him? And if so, did she really believe he was just hanging out in front of her house, hoping she would come outside and invite him in? Did she really believe that this short Latino man looked like my tall German-mixed boyfriend? If she did, does that mean her visual recognition for faces is starting to wane?

My mother has a telephone made specifically for those with dementia. There is a grid of 9 faces that when one of them is pressed it will dial that person. On Sunday, she said she was trying to call my cousin but instead called me. She seemed genuinely flustered on the phone when I answered so I don’t think it was her trying to “con me” into feeling bad for her, but a genuine accident. As I mulled that incident in my mind, I started to wonder if it is in fact the beginnings of my mother losing her ability to recognize faces. However, that is hinged on her believing this stranger was Josh.

Regardless of the correct answer, it is very apparent that my mother is quickly becoming a danger to herself. The only logical step from here is to put her into a group home. She needs constant attention and care, of which I cannot provide. Not to the level that is required.