Alzheimer's disease · Assisted living · Bob Dylan · Depression

Ain’t talkin’ / October 27, 2007

Today is mild and rainy. The ground is covered with bright yellow leaves and there are still many more to fall. Last year at this time my mother was in the hospital with a pulmonary embolism, and I was frantically trying to arrange for her to move from rehab right into Garden Manor. That didn’t work, and so she would come home for another month and a half before the move.

We are facing a very different holiday season this year. I’ve had it in the back of my mind to formalize Thanksgiving plans, but I don’t want to think about it. I imagine that my sister and I will have dinner at Garden Manor–taking my mother out anywhere would be too disorienting for her. Our usual places will be closed that day, and I can’t see us taking her to a more upscale restaurant for a big dinner. I’m sad and nervous about it–I knew that the holidays as I’ve always known them would be yet another collateral loss, but you just don’t know how it feels until you’re there.

I’m still not sure how “comfortable” my mother is in her new home. It’s very hard to tell, and I’m only still developing the skills needed to read the clues in her behavior. It seems odd to be saying that at this point, but it’s true. I realized this one day when I visited and she was just beside herself with anxiety and sadness. She told me over and over again that she would die if I made her stay there, that she had never been as depressed as she was now. But during this jeremiad, whenever one of the staff or another resident would pass by us, my mother’s expression would light up and she’d wave brightly at them. I discovered that I could change such a black mood by suggesting that we go shopping soon, and asking her what kinds of things she needed from the store. She rarely actually want to go to a store, but expressing her “needs” makes her feel better. She says that she wants nail polish and lipstick and “school supplies” but what she really wants is to be heard when she tries to articulate her feelings. She wants some control, some response.

So I’m learning to see my relationship with her in smaller increments. I just can’t think too far into the future–she lives so much in the present that I have to accommodate. I’m not going to throw out the past just yet, but I’ve got to put it aside for now.

I’m still surprised at how emotionally difficult it’s been for my sister and me to come to terms with my mother’s disease and the decisions it’s forced. I’m still having a significant problem with depression, but I’m improving. I’m in a graduate seminar that’s a challenge, and I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned that I have another pup. I saw him on Petfinder and after a bit of an odyssey, he’s in his new home. He was listed by a Massachusetts rescue organization, but he was in Arkansas! I hadn’t been too keen on relocating a puppy from that distance, but when I talked to the wonderful rescue lady in AK and heard about all the dogs she’s trying to place, I took him. I’d been looking at his picture for so long by then and imagining him in my home, that he was almost mine, anyway. So the “puppy bus”–which makes the trip from Little Rock up to New England every couple of weeks–brought him to me, and in surprisingly fine condition. Waldo was presented to me with his tail wagging and beautiful amber eyes sparkling.

We think he’s a Catahoula Leopard dog–which I’d never heard of before. If you follow the Wikipedia link and scroll down to the picture of the patchwork dog, you’re looking at Waldo’s twin. He’s about 7 months old now and into everything. He counter-surfs and has successfully gotten out of the backyard twice. He and my 10-month-old Jasper have great adventures together (and also some squabbles) and are in the process of renovating my kitchen.

On a final note, I finally got to see Bob Dylan. He played at URI about a month ago, along with Elvis Costello, and I went with a friend of mine. The show was great–Dylan was his usual inscrutable self and sang some classics in unexpectedly new arrangements. We’d be bopping along with the music for a minute or so before realizing that he was playing “All Along the Watchtower” or “Don’t Think Twice.” Unlike Costello, who was positively garrulous, Bob didn’t speak until the encore, when he introduced his band. The older I get, the more his music means to me.

2 thoughts on “Ain’t talkin’ / October 27, 2007

  1. Gail Rae Hudson Says:
    November 16th, 2007 at 2:52 am
    Hi! Just reading, listening, you know, whatever. It’s been awhile since I’ve been here…or at my own site…I notice it’s been awhile since you’ve been here, too. I’ve been trying to track down a book I read about on the web (but apparently I didn’t bookmark what I read). I thought I might have read about it in your library catalog. Guess not, but I noticed the Sue Miller book and that put me in mind of a quote from that book which seems to apply to your post above: “In the end all those judgments, those self-judgments, are pointless. This disease is inexorable, cruel. It scoffs at everything.”
    Very pleased about your new dog, by the way…he sounds like a gem!

  2. Karma Says:
    November 17th, 2007 at 9:57 pm
    I’m glad that you’re able to do things for yourself in this difficult time. I think its important for us to find ways to care for ourselves as we come to terms with not being able to be cared for by our mothers.

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