Lately I feel like I am walking a fine line with my elderly mother, trying to provide her with a peace of mind while still maintaining a sense of reality for her. I feel like I am jumping two steps forward then three steps back. Like I am dancing the tango with her, on a tightrope high up in the sky, without the luxury of a safety net, and trying not to look down.
My mother and I share many traits, most likely because of genetics. We are both intelligent and independent women, who instinctively lend a helping hand to those who need one. While I take ownership of my independent spirit, I attribute my intelligence to the luck of the draw within my gene pool.
However, there are many areas where my mother and I are polar opposites. For instance, I am an outdoor gal at heart. I can go into withdrawal if I am cooped up inside for any length of time. For my mother, her idea of a picnic is to sit in the dining room with a table dressed with red-checkered linens and look out the window.
It is our similarities and our differences that has made for a unique partnership. Because at the core of our relationship is a primal love between mother and daughter, and the friendship we have developed over the years.
As my mother’s dementia has continued to blossom, our relationship has drastically altered. Yes, my responsibilities have increased. But now I am finding even my casual conversations with her are more chatty-cathy in nature. I share stories of the antics of my two canine companions. Fortunately, they are lively little buggers, so I have plenty of ammunition. Sometimes I share the latest news about her grandchildren, but only when she is having a good day since she no longer remembers who they are on a bad day.
I pick my battles with more care now. Does it really matter if she remembers how many sets of bed linens she has? Of course not. Does she need to understand that laundry has to be done. Yes, even if it means she has to allow me to do it for her.
My biggest challenge is that I never know which “Mom” I will encounter, whether it is during a phone call or a personal visit. Will it be the gal with the dazzling blue eyes and bright smile, or the gal who is agitated over where her 20-year-old winter boots are? And since the version of “Mom” can change within a heartbeat, I am never sure if she is truly listening to me and understanding the information I am sharing.
I know the situation will only get worse, not better. I get that. But somewhere along the way, I feel as if I have lost not only my mother, but my friend. It is like she is hidden behind a thick fog and only comes out to play when the sun is shining and the birds are singing.
So, I have no other choice but to continue to tango on my tightrope, and not look down. And hopefully not fall off.