Yesterday started the same as the last few. I was supposed to be off of work one more day, but I decided to return early as there was a lot of down time here at the moment. The focus of course is still on my parent’s needs. However, I can’t just sit on the couch waiting, so…to the laptop I go.
After making coffee and getting set up for work, I thought I would also get started on breakfast for them. I threw a dozen biscuits in the oven, as I know both of them like sausage and biscuits. The sausage was already prepared, having been cooked up and frozen the day before. (Thanks honey!) All that remained was to bake the biscuits and ‘nuke’ the sausage, and voila! Breakfast is served.
Unfortunately, my mother wasn’t very hungry when she got up.
Overall, she seemed the same as she had the past few days. Her speech was still stiff and slow, as though the act of moving the jaw was taking extreme effort. It reminded me of what mine felt and how I sounded like when I was frozen from being outside too long in one of Illinois’ colder winters as a kid, when your jaw muscles went all tight. I am not sure if her difficulty is because of an issue with the control messages getting to the muscles, or if the issue lies with the process of forming thoughts…or both. All I know is that she sounds most of the time like she is intoxicated.
For the most part, though, the appearance of intoxication ends there. She is aware of her environment, can walk, and can still do basic things on her own. Still, it’s sad. She has moments of clarity and then can suddenly seem like a person in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s. During her moments of clarity, it is clear she understands what is coming, and is trying to approach it with resolve and dignity. Unfortunately, those moments where the clarity fades rob her of both of those.
This afternoon, while in the next room, she called out quite randomly and asked me what I was drinking. It was almost like it was part of another conversation, so much so that I would have thought she was talking to someone else if not for her using my name. She has also taken to telling both my dad and I, at random, that she loves us. Those are the truly heartbreaking moments, when you know she knows. She gets it. Time is up.
As the day progressed, I kept busy alternating between work and taking care of them. The hospice aid came and gave Mom a shower and that seemed to brighten her mood a bit. As she lay on the couch, dozing off and on, she would occasionally call out to my father or I that she loved us, to which of course we would respond in kind. Everything seemed to be about as okay as they could be, until later afternoon when reality gave me a gut check.
My father had stepped out (his way of staying busy and coping, just as this is mine) when she called out to me. I got up and went to her side. She looked me straight in the eye and asked, “When my brain dies, will I be awake or asleep?” It wasn’t in the tone of an adult asking how something works. It was like a child asking what happens to the family pet when it dies. After I answered her question as best I could she then asked, a small tear in the corner of her eye, if it would hurt. I reassured her it would not, shouldering the pain of that question as best I could. A rock, I reminded myself…a rock.
Later, after my dad returned and I ran a quick errand to the store (she had requested garlic bread to go with the spaghetti I was cooking) I cooked diner, then cleaned up the kitchen and washed dishes. She and Dad watched her favorite show (The Voice) while I did this. Once done, I joined them and together the three of watched TV, talked, and laughed. When Dad asked her to go out and to the porch with him for a bit, though, she declined, crying a bit as she did. This was the first time she had done that, and it hit Dad hard.
The night ended with me, being the pragmatist I am, giving Dad the hard facts after she went to bed. The doctors had told them she had 2-3 months, but based on her symptoms I was pretty sure it was going to be less than that. I told him what to look for and what to expect…something doctors never seem to do unless you drill them for it. Then I went to bed to give him time to cry in private, as I knew he would prefer.