Deborah J Taranto
9 Shades of Crazy
(an except from my memoir)
This year my mom celebrated her 94th birthday quite differently from last year; this year she was less cognizant of her surroundings and not interested in the festivities. She is in the last stage of Alzheimer’s Dementia and is experiencing a myriad of depilating scenarios. According to the Alzheimer’s website the last stage could take from 1 to 3 years and then some. The ability to remember diminishes as one would suspect, but the loss of verbal skills makes communication difficult and frustrating. Her inability to do simple things like feed herself, swallow, and sleeplessness are increasing with each passing month. Of course all this is expected, but nevertheless, hard to accept. We are approaching year 2. While I have aides 7 days a week 12 hours a day getting away even for just a day or two needs to be carefully planned and plotted leaving no room for error. Of course there is always human error, yet I accepted an invitation from a college friend for a girl’s weekend on the beach. The needle on the speedometer didn’t go below 75 until I hit Bridgehampton. Two hours from Staten Island, must be a record!
After being MIA for five days, hidden in a small alcove of the Hampton’s, I get a harried phone call from my husband.
“Your mother is refusing to eat her dinner or take her pills. Just talk to her.”
I knew this would eventually happen. As soon as I go away for any length of time, longer than a few hours, my mother begins to panic. She loses her bearings, no longer remembering her surroundings. Her security has been tampered with and her cognitive ability to understand what everyone is saying to her diminishes into the black hole of fear.
“Okay. Put her on.” I know how this conversation will play out all too well. Been there, done that.
“Here Mom. It’s Debbie. You know your daughter.” If I had Skype I would be looking at my husband trying to hand the phone to my mother. My mother would be putting the phone to her neck missing her ear by at least three inches.
“Mom put the phone by your ear.” I can here the rustle of material mixing with the phone. “Can you hear me now?”
“Yes, but you know they are all lying to me these sons of bitches. They are trying to tell me you are not getting married today. You would not believe what they are doing to me!”
“Mom, please listen to me. Can you hear me?” I know the phone has fallen back down to her neck. Why someone on her end is not monitoring this chaos I can’t even imagine. There are six people in my house and they call little ole’ me to calm her down.
“Mom, can you hear me now?” I am practically screaming loud enough to drown out the trucks speeding down Montauk Highway.
“I am at my friend’s house with her daughter and my daughter, your granddaughter Christina. I will be home tomorrow.”
“So, you are not getting married today? They are all lying to me.”
I can hear the distress in her voice. “Don’t worry about it now Mom. Tomorrow we can talk about it.”
“Mom, can you hear me now?”
“Oh, yes I can hear you now. But aren’t you getting married?”
“I am already married to Brian. He’s there with you now.”
“Yes, but you don’t know what they’re trying to tell me. You were supposed to get married and then this one over here, what’s her name, you know? She takes me in and took my clothes and put my pajamas on and took my teeth. Oh, why did you leave me here? I don’t know what to do.”
“I know Mom. Listen to me.”
“Listen to me! I will be home tomorrow and we can talk about all of this then. Now just relax. You know I wouldn’t get married without you? I will see you tomorrow. Love you. Somehow I feel like Scarlett at the end of ‘Gone with the Wind’, and we all know how that turns out!
“What?” The phone went dead. Not ten seconds later my phone rings again.
“Deb, why did you hang up,” my husband asks?
“I didn’t, I thought she did.”
“Well, would you just please tell your mother to take her pills because she is still refusing.”
“Sure, put her back on.”
“Mom? Can you hear me?”
“Please take your pills. I will be home tomorrow and I will take care of everything. Just take your pills for me. Okay?”
“Okay. But when you come back I’m not staying here anymore,” she said emphatically.
“If that’s what you want we will talk tomorrow. Now take your pills. Love you. Bye.”
I could hear my husband telling her, “One more. That’s it. Great Mom. See that was easy.”
“Deb,” my husband whispers.
“We have lift off!”
“Thank the lord!”
About an hour later I got a text. “She is sleeping.”
There really is no way of knowing how, who or when dementia will strike, but it is safe to say that when it does it not only affects the person experiencing the symptoms but everyone connected to that person becomes a casualty of the disease.