Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sunday with my old mum.

My mum, former nursing administrator, reader, writer, humorous raconteur, was also into meditative ironing. In retirement, she'd get up early and set up, in her kitchen, to iron. 

Sunday, I 'got her out' of her aged care facility; rescued her for the day. It was windy, grey, squally and damp last Sunday. Couldn't imagine much worse than being stuck in that day room at the hostel. Old women, walking frames. Some heads descended on chests asleep. Other sleeping heads thrown back, mouths open. Looking like my dad just after he'd died. 

Anyway, I got my 85 year old mum out. Not before I'd checked her clothes; fixed her hair; applied her a bit of tinted moisturiser and lippie. She's so pale these days, not getting into the sun much. When she stood in front of me as I dabbed the lipstick onto her quivering lips I noticed that I was looking directly into her face, despite her formerly being six inches taller than me. She's lost her memory and her height.

Still, mum looks good. Physically robust.

I drove to my local shops, fielding the confused questions. "Do you think if we went to see my mother she'd be home?" Her mum died in 1972. "Have you been through to see my mother lately?" Mum means have I been to Goldthorpe, Yorkshire, England, to visit her mother. 

I'll deflect occasionally. Haven't had time, I'll say. Other times I'll remind mum that her mum died when I was sixteen and mum was in her early forties. Her eyes fill with tears. As they say in the dealing with dementia reading, sometimes it's better to humour the sufferer. We're all suffering.

The confused questions are repeated on a sort of loop. About three years ago, when mum's dementia was first diagnosed, I used to get angry and frustrated by mum's repetition. I wrote out standard responses and told her to read them. Got sick of telling her where we were, where she lived, where she lives now, what's happened to my dad and who that man in the kitchen was, that is, my husband, Al, who she's known and loved since 1979.

Now I'm amazed by my acceptance and patience. 

Surprisingly, I relish the humour, when it occurs as it frequently does with mum. She's always had the best sense of humour.  On Sunday, I let mum out of the car at a neighbour's driveway so she wouldn't struggle with the door and the gutter as she got out of the car. I then reversed  to park outside my house. Mum walked up the path and got into the car. She thought we were leaving having forgotten that we'd just arrived. We both roared with laughter, eyes filling with tears.

After lunch, I invited mum to do some ironing. She longs to feel useful and I thought she'd appreciate a familiar task. Set it all up, worrying a bit about the hot iron but thinking she'd manage. Gave her one of her straightforward shirts. She worked around it a bit; re-ironing sections she'd already done, unable to figure out how to move the shirt around on the board. "I'm not sure I can manage this," she said after a few attempts.

I helped her out by lying a sleeve out flat on the board. 

"Oh, I see!" She smiled her thanks, secured the top of the sleeve in her left hand and ironed with her right. She glided the iron along the sleeve and over her thumb. Her reflexes, happily, are still good. 

Packed up the ironing, poured her a wine and she watched me make some biscuits instead.