There’s nothing quite like receiving a call from my mother at four-thirty in the morning, to wake me up with a start. What was so important that she felt it necessary to call me at such an unusual hour? It’s not what you think, my friends. No, there wasn’t an emergency or anything to be alarmed about, she just wanted to tell me that she woke up with a song in her head, “How are things in Glocca Morra?” Dear, Lord! I am doomed! I’m not sure what happened before I found my way to this planet, but I think I drew the short straw. Between my mother and her mother and her mother’s mother winding up with dementia, and my father winding up as a hoarder and a schizophrenic, the odds are not in my favor. I already see the changes in several of my siblings, the paranoia ramping up and the odd behavior, it doesn’t leave me feeling terribly confident in what I have to face in the years to come. As morbid as it sounds, knowing that my ‘borrowed’ kidney is only going to last between 12-20 years may actually work to my advantage.
Why would I say such a thing? Because I’ve seen how my parents’ conditions worsened significantly as they aged, especially when they got into the 80+ age bracket. If my kidney does exceptionally well and lasts a full 20 years, that’ll get me to 73. I’m good with that. It’ll give me enough time to try and fulfill my dreams and (hopefully) cut out early enough to avoid losing my mind altogether. I really don’t want to stick around if dementia and/or paranoid schizophrenia are what I get to look forward to. Knowing my luck, I’d end up with both! I cannot imagine what that would ‘look’ like. With my father’s paranoia, when people would look at him longer than he was comfortable with, he’d shout, “What are you staring at?!” During the early stages of dementia, when someone would accuse my mom of saying something unpleasant, she’d respond with, “I know my mind! I would never say anything like that!” Put the two together, that’d really be a comedy of errors! My mother frequently used the term, “I don’t know up from sick ’em.” That’d probably be the best way to sum it up.
I witnessed my father in his final years and the guy made Sideshow Bob (from the Simpsons) seem normal. I’ve tried to think of something positive to say about him but I cannot think of a single thing. The man was s-t-r-a-n-g-e. If I just take into account his hoarding and his weird fixation with homosexuals aka ‘tinkerbells’ (to the extent that he stood on street corners, passing out pamphlets and speaking to anyone who would listen about his beliefs on the matter), I cannot help but laugh (uneasily) because the whole thing is so sad and bizarre. As much as I kid, it scares me to death! I don’t want to wind up like him. I already have enough issues. My mom says I’m nothing like him but she’s also told me that she knows her own mind (on multiple occasions) so I don’t necessarily trust her judgment at this point. To be honest, I think the last time she used that term was before she moved out of her house (last July). When I ask her anything nowadays, her typical response is, “I don’t know.” I’ll ask her how she’s doing or what she’s up to or what her plans are and she responds with, “I don’t know.”
As bad as things are with my mom at the moment, I know things can and will likely get much worse. Her sister (two years her junior) died on my mother’s 90th birthday. A couple of years prior to her passing, she was diagnosed with dementia. Initially, my aunt’s behavior mirrored that of my mother’s (at present). At the end of her life, she was nearly catatonic. My brother Clover and his wife went to see her a few months before she died, and at that point she no longer spoke but she did become visibly excited when my brother brought her some chocolate. Even though she couldn’t talk, she was still capable of movement at the time. Within a few months, her condition had gotten so bad that she just laid in a hospital bed, no longer moving or speaking, and a nurse had to do everything for her. I am glad that my mom is still sharp enough that she can live in an assisted care facility, but it’s only a matter of time before she’ll have to move into memory care. When that happens, it’ll be a sad day indeed. She has always prided herself on her self-sufficiency and independence.
Moving into a place where she can no longer come and go as she pleases will be a tough pill to swallow. Of course, if she’s no longer lucid, maybe she won’t even be aware or care (for that matter). My maternal grandma, who shared a room with me for 3 years, gave me some frightening insight on what is yet to come. She moved in with us in her late 60s and I don’t think she ever knew my name. I vividly remember her mistaking me for my oldest sister. One of the things she used to do that has always stuck with me was she would lay in bed at night and call my mother’s name over and over and over. It would start out low and slow and as the minutes ticked by, it would become louder and more frequent. I felt like I was on the set of ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’. Even if I left the room, I couldn’t escape it. It seemed to follow me. The sound traveled via the ductwork throughout the house (including the basement). She was diagnosed with dementia at a much younger age than my mother (which is not a comforting thought). I know she didn’t take care of herself, she was a chain smoker and an alcoholic. Maybe that attributed to the early onset, I have no idea.
One of my last memories of her was when she smeared her poop all over the bathroom walls. Apparently, she was upset with my mother and that’s how she decided to vent her frustration. I think that was the last straw for my mom because grandma moved out of our home and into a ‘nursing home’ shortly after that. What I find so strange about dementia is how it affects people differently. My grandma became more ornery (which I didn’t think was possible); however, my mom has actually softened somewhat. My mother-in-law? Holy smokes, I am not even sure how to explain her behavior. There is no rhyme or reason to any of it. Because of her tendency to ‘wander’ at all times of the day and night, my father-in-law has to lock the doors from the inside and constantly watch her. Not only does she have dementia but she has delirium to boot! When we went to visit my husband’s family last summer, I couldn’t get over the changes. One of the changes that I welcomed was that she was actually nice to me. She even thanked me for ‘saving her life’ a couple of times. Huh?
The rest? Oy! I’m not sure what was up with the baby doll, but she would carry it around and tell us what it was thinking. Ack! Packing up the house was another unexplained behavior. On a regular basis, she decides that the movers are coming ‘any minute’ and starts pulling the pictures off the walls and shoving them into pillowcases, emptying drawers of their contents, and making a right mess of things. It’s hard for my father-in-law to take her anywhere because she tends to cause a scene. On a fairly recent trip to the doctor’s office, he brought her along. While he was booking the next appointment, she started screaming at him (from across the room), accusing him of having an affair with the receptionist. I think it took him an hour to get her to settle down. He told my husband that he’s getting his ‘just desserts’ because of the way he treated her throughout their marriage. Between the boozing and the womanizing, it wasn’t a good situation. Regardless of how much she has deteriorated mentally, he refuses to move her into a care home or facility. I think it’s his way of making up for the past.
As for me, I’m not sure what the future holds. I know dementia tends to run in families as well as mental illness. I’ve already had a lifetime of depression and anxiety to contend with, if I could just ride out the next few years without dementia or schizophrenia being added to my growing list of ‘conditions’, that would make me so very happy! Anyway, that’s what’s primarily been on my mind ever since I got ‘the call’ from my mom. I sure hope those early morning calls don’t become a regular thing. If they do, I guess I’ll have to figure something out. Alright, I’d better call it a night. Oh! In case you were wondering, “How are things in Glocca Morra?” is a song that was first published in 1946. Per Wikipedia, it was introduced in the musical ‘Finian’s Rainbow’ in 1947. Thanks so much for stopping by! For the folks that are ‘following’ me, I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading my blog. I’m no poet laureate, but I love to write and I enjoy the opportunity to share stories about my life and family or to just make simple random observations. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.