Friday, July 21, 2017

Tough times don't last - tough people do

I want to write about this - but it's hard.  Readers of my blog know that my mother has dementia - and that this summer I've been staying with her and trying to support her as best I can.  I'm learning a lot about myself in the process - and it's not always good.  When I have answered the same question 25 times in the past 10 minutes I do get impatient.  I answer the question, but I'm also aware of an edge that creeps into my voice, and I hate myself for it.  I spend my days hunting for things that have got lost - and I find them in the most unexpected places.  Sometimes.  Sometimes I don't find them at all.  Mum has very little awareness of the time.  She can wake up at 2 am and get dressed and decide she wants to go out for lunch.  Or she can decide at 6pm that it's bedtime.  She draws all the curtains and I have to creep around the place in the dark.  But she's my mother, and I love her, and I want her to stay as long as possible in the home where she feels safe.

I know I'm losing her - a little bit more each day.  She remembers my son, but sometimes not my daughter.  She looks at photos of where we used to live, with my brother and I in the garden as children, and says she doesn't know who we are and that she's never lived there.  She can't remember how to cook or even how to make a cup of tea.  She often says hurtful things, and when I suggest she does something (have something to eat, wash, get dressed or whatever) she always replies angrily "Stop telling me what to do."  It's heartbreaking, but she's my mother and I love her.

She's with me every minute of the day, yet I miss her.  I miss the person she used to be.  I miss being her daughter.  I feel like I'm the mother now.  In the course of a day I go through every emotion there is:  sadness, anger, guilt, resentment, happiness, frustration.  One hundred times a day I say to myself "Stop, take a breath, carry on."  Above all else, I think I'm afraid:  afraid that in the future my memories of Mum will be of this time - not the previous 50 years when she was my mother.  That all my good memories will be wiped out by all the conflicting ones I feel now.  I want to remember her as she was - not as she is (or as she will be).  I feel I'm grieving for her - and yet she is still alive.

It's hard.  But I know it's going to get harder.  I know that I need to be happy for today, because this is as good as it's ever going to be, and it's all downhill from here.

I know that I'm not alone.  Millions of people are caring for elderly relatives with dementia.  The other day I was taking Mum for an appointment and the taxi driver opened up about how he was caring for his father.  People are kind and understanding and patient, and I draw strength from that.

I know I need to move closer.  India is so far away.  There's a huge heaviness in my heart as I write this because I have the perfect job at the perfect school.  But I need to be closer.  I need to see Mum more often than I can right now.  And I know that in years to come it will be my mother that I remember, not my job.  I know I will regret the time I don't spend with her - no matter how difficult that time might be.

I know I have a lot of readers in Europe.  I know the power of a network.  I know the recruitment season is coming up - and I suspect that with Brexit looming large that international schools in Europe will be expanding as companies relocate.  To those readers I would say - think of me and please reach out if you hear of a suitable opening.  Thank you.

Finally a poem - sent to me today by a friend.  Kind words are very much appreciated at this time. Thank you too.

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