Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The old and the new....Similarities

Being back home in Ohio has been great for catching up with loved ones, old and new..... The old being my mother Marguerite and the newest my grand daughter Gretchen.  This adorable baby, though a "surprise" to her parents is a delightful, easy going little bundle.  Marguerite saw her when she was one day old, but sadly doesn't remember.

Marguerite has been suffering with Alzheimer's disease (a form of dementia) for several years and has noticeably declined in the two plus years I've been away living in Mongolia.  At first she would occasionally respond to one of my letters or post cards with a short letter.  By the start of my second year, no word from Mom.  At one point, my sister Sue brought Mom over to her house so we could Skype.  She was pleasant and it was good to see and talk with her, but she did not remember it later.  At all.

For the first few days I saw Mom she constantly told me how good I looked (who doesn't love that?) and kept asking me how long I would be home.....where I was going next...and repeating the same comments about how exciting my life is, great I'm not bored...etc.  After the first few days, she stopped telling me how good I looked (now that she was used to seeing me), but has asked continually where I'm going next, how my boys are and commenting about my exciting life.  Bless her little heart.  

Baby Gretchen is all of the wonderful things babies are.... cute, tiny, cuddly, sweet, beautiful, adorable, and I could go on and on...  Since it's my choice to live far away and get to know her and watch her grow up via Skype with visits to Ohio in between, I'm enjoying hanging out with her, holding and admiring her as much as possible while I'm here.  

I have noticed that there are some similarities between a baby and an old lady who can't remember...... they get frustrated and have limited ability to communicate... a baby cries and fusses, my mother cusses and rants... 

Understandable in both, but definitely more disturbing with Mom.  Her standard rant I discovered while hanging out with her a lot... "oh my god, *heavy sigh*, jesus christ.....*heavy sigh*.....repeat.

So with the baby, you pick her up, "oh what is it"?  hungry?  diaper need changing? tired?  ... And you can fix it, usually relatively quickly with little discomfort for all concerned.

Not so with Mom.  When you ask her "what is it? " She may or may not remember what it is that just upset her.  Then because she can't remember, her frustration mounts and the cycle repeats itself.  She frequently remarks "i don't remember", followed by a nervous laugh, "it's terrible getting old", "this is my hell" and of course the litany of "oh my god", followed by the *heavy sigh*, "jesus christ".....oy.  This all seemed funnier to me while I was relaying the story to my sister after having stayed overnight at my Mom's..... Now it seems sad, freaky, weird and funny all together.  Guess the nervous laughter or seeing the humor in the situation is the same coping mechanism in Mom that it is with me.  
Marguerite with her favorite baby girl, Pookie the cat
me with Gretchen, my favorite baby girl:
Other similarities between babies and old people include an inability to feed one self.  Not that Mom can't cook  or should I say she is perfectly capable of heating food in the microwave, though in very strange combinations.....Well,  she used to be able to cook...aside from the fact that she kept forgetting food that she put in the oven to heat, and we ended up flipping her breaker for the stove before she burns herself and her cat up.  She now tells the story that her stove stopped working and the apartment complex won't fix it because she has a microwave.  I repeatedly told her that she can't use it because she forgets to turn it off. 

Unfortunately sometimes old people either lose control of their bodily functions or just don't realize they need to go.  Unlike babies who haven't learned this yet, old people lose this skill.  Case in point, poor Mom sometimes has accidents and doesn't even realize it.  She has some adult diapers and says she wears them all the time, but actually she doesn't remember that she does not wear them.... So it's good to check the back of the pants before leaving the house with your old loved one.   I don't mind changing a baby diaper.... but not the other kind, thank  you.  Mom of course then gets angry, frustrated and annoyed when you tell her...oops, better wear a depends and some clean drawers before we go out in public.  The rant begins, "oh my god" *heavy sigh*, jesus christ, *heavy sigh*....

I've heard that as we age we revert back to the beginning; the circle of life.  oh my god *heavy sigh* jesus christ, *heavy sigh* repeat.