Home Is Where The Heart Is (an extended story)…Friday Fictioneers 7th December, 2022 .

Mum and Dad are still living in the family home. That’s what Dad keeps telling mum. “There’s your tree, Margaret”, he patiently repeats pointing to the towering gum tree in the neighbour’s garden. Or, he reminds her of the huge Steinway grand piano in their loungeroom. They’re anchor points in an otherwise surreal world fueled by vascular dementia, and I make a note to ask her what she sees when she looks out her window next time. Where on earth does she think she is?

At this stage of the dementia journey, I’m more curious than alarmed. She’s still intelligent. Knows who she is and who we are. It’s only Dad who transmogrifies into an incredible cast of characters, including her mother who she mostly knows is dead but keeps turning up then inexplicably disappearing into thin air.

Yet surprisingly, she has new-found serenity. “Darling, I was watching the clouds today and enjoying the sunshine. There are so many beautiful flowers I’d never noticed in our garden before.”

So much doesn’t matter anymore. I’m relieved she’s no longer persecuted by “the Jones’s”, although she keeps asking me if I’ve been practicing my singing. I can’t quite bring myself to tell her that my throat doesn’t work anymore and that’s why I play the violin. Yet, I don’t want to disappoint and I cherish every time she plays “Happy Birthday”, which she still plays with her unique flourish. This is when she’s most herself.

“Strange things are happening around here, darling,” she says. “But don’t worry. We’ll work it all out one day.”

I am not so sure, but I’m borrowing her new-found optimism, praying a miracle will stem the tide.

Goodness knows where those fractured neural pathways are taking her, but this home is where her heart is and she’s happy there. So although we’re no longer looking out through the same window, we’ll keep holding her hand and stay with her for the journey.

….

My apologies for significantly going over the word limit this week. Perhaps, I could plead dyscalculia. However, the photo this week with it’s mirrored reflections reminded me of some of the visual confusion my mother has been experiencing lately and her corresponding diagnosis of dementia. I felt it was more important for this story to be told than to stick to the word limit this week. So many of us have a loved one who is experiencing dementia, Alzheimer’s or has been there. People’s comments can be cruel and disrespectful and going down this path is no reflection of how intelligent or accomplished they might’ve been.

I’ve had two grandparents go through Alzheimer’s and that was very different to mum. My grandparents were always old, and just got older. Forgetting things just seemed par for the course until it took over. On the other hand, our parents ideally have always been our strength physically, emotionally and intellectually and then they’re not and we start trading places, it’s so much harder (at least, for me.)

Anyway, my apologies to Rochelle for exceeding the word limit, but I know she supports a good cause, although she keeps her efforts within the word limit.

Do you have any comments or insights into dementia or Alzheimer’s? Please share in the comments below.

This is another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Best wishes,

Rowena

19 thoughts on “Home Is Where The Heart Is (an extended story)…Friday Fictioneers 7th December, 2022 .

  1. Rowena Post author

    Thanks so much, Rochelle. So many people I know have a close family member going through this and yet there’s still this silence and shame associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia. i also forget my parents are getting older, especially as it’s been hard to see them since covid. I still think of them in their prime along with myself.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

  2. Tannille

    Through and through dementia is without a doubt one of the cruellest diseases. Heartbreaking for the loved ones. I think the “happy” sufferers can teach us a lot about savouring the moment. The psychologist in me is fascinated by the “between” worlds.

  3. Rowena Post author

    Didn’t know you’re a psychologist. I’m fascinated by the in between world she’s in too. Although it makes no sense, I’m still seeking explanations and understanding.
    I’ve really been struck by how Mum is noticing nature now and watching the clouds go by. She was always rushing around before and come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve stopped to look up at the sky much myself lately. It’s been quite sunny and I’ve actually been sheltering away and my lungs are playing up.
    Hope you have a great weekend.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

  4. Rowena Post author

    Thanks so much. One of my favourite quotes comes from “To Kill A Mockingbird”: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—” “Sir?” “—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” This has always guided me as a writer and putting myself as far as possible inside someone else’s skin and walking in their shoes. It’s so important not to laugh when you don’t agree with someone else’s opinion or how they see the world to sit along side them perhaps gently steering them somewhere else or just letting it go. Being right isn’t always what really matters.

  5. Rowena Post author

    Hey, Tannille, I thought you might be interested in this post I wrote about Ahn Do and Fiona Wood where they talked about skin. It really opened my eyes.https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2018/09/19/inside-skin-ahn-do-paints-professor-fiona-wood/?wref=tp&wref=tp
    BTW I had a chat with my dad about what Mum sees when she looks out into the garden and she sees everything that’s there and she’s in the present, but the connections aren’t working well and Dad could be anyone and sometimes my brother and I are sometimes back at school. Dad said she’s getting a bit distressed her mum or grandmother suddenly disappear and she’s concerned she’s upset them. Golly. I admire the way Dad is handling things.

  6. granonine

    Someone has named it “The Long Goodbye.” Perhaps the cruelest illness of all, when nothing is left of the loved one other than the outer shell. I remember my mother-in-law being so, so hurt when her own mother no longer recognized her. She took it as a personal rejection, not understanding that dementia robbed her mother of who she was, took most of her memories away. The sadness is indescribable.

  7. theministryofshrawleywalks

    Screw the word limit, this is important and beautifully written, my father in law suffered and ultimately passed from complications due to it, my Mum is starting to repeat things a bit and I wonder if its a sign, I’m keeping an eye on her, she’s 85 now so no spring chicken. It’s funny when I saw the window, I immediately thought of a resident in a care home looking out at someone they recognised but couldn’t quite place looking in, during the pandemic. A terrible time.

  8. Rowena Post author

    Thank you very much. I saw families talking to their loved ones through the window during covid and it was heartbreaking but strangely probably a step ahead of just talking on the phone which is what we’ve been doing.
    Sorry to hear about your father-in-law and that you’re starting to see signs in your Mum. There’s part of me which feels very protective of my mum and like I could go into hand-to-hand combat with dementia to save her, but as you know, it doesn’t work that way.
    Hope you have a wonderful weekend and thank you for stopping by.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

  9. Rowena Post author

    Thank you for the Linda and you captured the situation so well. Dad doesn’t say too much but it’s hard watching Mum ages at a much faster rate than him and they’ve always been birds of a feather. Dad’s still out playing golf competitively, sailing, and bushwalking and soon much won’t be able to get down their stairs as she’s also got arthritis. Still, they’ve made it into their late 70’s and had had a good life.

  10. theministryofshrawleywalks

    I’m trying to persuade mum to move up towards us. It’s hard for her to move from her dream home, but it’s a 160 mile round trip to see her and with busy lives it’s hard to do. Slowly I think she’s coming round.

  11. Tannille

    Not by trade. I have a BA in psychology. Perception and human behaviour fascinates me.

    It sounds like your mum is enjoying the moment. We’re usually too busy to slow down and smell the roses, so to speak.

    That time of year for hay fever and stuff. I hope your lungs clear. It’s not fun feeling off.

  12. Vicki Henry

    My heart goes out to you and your family. The various forms of dementia are so devastating to everyone in the family and circle of friends. May your mother have peace. May you all have patience and continued understanding.

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