This post is part of a log of phone conversations between me and my mother who has dementia. We are reminiscing and catching up. Mom is 90 and moved from the family farmhouse to a sort of assisted living apartment in upstate New York. I live in Florida. We have not had much contact for several years until I started calling her every few days, in August. My goal is to reconnect with her, be someone who will listen to her and share memories. These posts include parts of our conversations I feel important to write about such as events and things she wants to discuss from her life, her family and growing old. She so enjoys our phone calls. Her memory comes and goes. It seems like she has more alert days since I started calling, but that may be my wishful thinking. I am learning a lot about her status in life and how it's changed over the years from being the strong maternal figure to an elderly person who at times feels forgotten as well as forgetful.
"I was just thinking about you," Mom says, as soon as she picks up the phone and realizes it is Antsy Nancy calling. I hesitate to ask what she was thinking. "When are you coming up to see me? I am afraid I got mixed up and told people you were coming."
"I don't have anything planned and can't make it any time, soon," I respond. She stays upbeat and suggests maybe I would make the trip later in the winter or early spring. I tell her it is something for me to think about.
It is a long trip, to me, these days. At least mentally. We keep busy and always seem to have projects and tasks that need getting done. It's pretty much the way I like to live. But, there is more to it than being too busy.
Since talking with mom over the past several months and listening to her I realize how lonely she's become after my dad, mom's closest sister and many other friends have died. And how she understands why five or her six children have moved away, but resents being left behind. Something happened between her and her best friend who drives and they no longer go out twice a week for dinner or share in other activities. So she's grounded in that respect. Mom's very grateful that my youngest brother Dennis and his wife, Vicki have stayed close to her and do so much for her. But now there are a lot of hours she spends doing nothing but hating being alone.
All of this makes me realize what little ties I have to my hometown. I have my own family and made a home elsewhere. I barely made lifelong ties with family, let alone friends. That's just me. For personal reasons, I have no interest in what goes on around my hometown.
Mom is there and I guess a visit would mean a lot to her, even though she would quickly forget I was ever there, because of the dementia. And a visit from me would hardly fix her loneliness.
It is odd the things she remembers about me. She doesn't seem to remember me as a little girl, but as the mother of two little girls who loved to spend summers on the farm with grandma. She cherishes picnics and afternoons at the pond with my brother Dick's children or watching after Liz's kids while Liz worked at the university. Those are the days she frequently recalls. Those are the days she wants back.
I think mom really wants to relive the old days. Not when we were little, but when we came back to the farm, with our children to visit grandma. She wants those summer days. Not cold winters. Warm days with lots of sunshine and children to make happy. That is what she misses. It is not so much that her children have abandoned her for another state or warmer weather. It has to do with the part of her life that meant so much to her is gone. It will never be like that again. Even great-grandchildren aren't there to fill the void. So she is lonely, for something in the past.
I know it isn't like this in other families. In my hometown, there are many generations growing up within miles of each other, sharing everyday life. We didn't turn out like that and maybe some of us will live to regret it and miss our favorite times with family.
We talked last night for about an hour and I couldn't help but think about her misery.
I pressed my ear close to the phone because I didn't want to miss a word, even the stuff about the manager at her complex that she is growing to hate, something I hear every time we talk, at least five times. When she curses her children for moving a way, I keep quiet over the fact that I am one of those kids and she is sort of right. I endure hearing her sad stories again. Many change each time and I don't know how much is from her imagination.
She got to a happier stage and we had some laughs over some memories I brought up. She laughed, but it felt like these were my memories, not hers.
When our call ended, mom was feeling pretty good and planning to go downstairs to the community room to help put together a jigsaw puzzle. Mom didn't seem as sad or blue as usual. Her opening remark about my visit should have been a tip off. If she enjoys telling her neighbors I am coming, then so be it.
I told her I would call in a few days and she wishes me a good week.
"I love you, mom."
"I love you too, dear."