Saturday, March 8, 2014

Report from Pillville: Dementia...and...Puppies!

When I have a moment or two here in the Kingdom of Pillville, I sometimes take a little Google tour of the questions that have been patiently waiting in the back rooms of my mind. Here's a souvenir from today's tour: types of dementia. Sometimes my mother's memory loss is startling. Certain old stories seems stuck like glue, while other pieces of her past have simply dissolved. Or like she's cleaned out the closet in her brain. Keep this. Get rid of that.

Sometimes a conversation takes a weird turn like tonight when we began talking about the grandchildren she's lost track of due to an acrimonious divorce. "Those boys might be farmers," she said, insisting they could farm the acreage they grew up on though said acreage has never been actively farmed by them or their mother. I feel like I might be coming down with some kind of sudden-onset dementia during conversations like this. I go micro instead of macro, trying to figure out if she means who I think she means or if I wasn't listening carefully. Or if the land was actually farmed--maybe a hobby farm all these years, and I just didn't know. Or if she means they might farm their other grandmother's farm which really was a farm. I ask too many questions trying to straighten out the snarl of information I can feel tightening somewhere around my cerebellum when I should probably just say, "Yep, those boys might be farmers! Yep, they sure could be farmers!" And then change the subject.

my mother and her twin sister and their brother and one of the family milk cows--now these kids could have been farmers!
Tonight's conversation ending up with her exclaiming that anyone could farm if they just got a horse and a plow--or a tractor. I wanted to say that nothing is farther from the truth. And get into how, nowadays, most people in the U.S. would starve if they had to grow their own food. But I didn't get into that.

We talked about raising puppies instead, and I whipped the iPad over to the table and showed her pictures of the St. Bernard puppies that my brother's wife's brother (Are you following me? It's a little test....) and his family raise in Iowa. Puppies. There's a subject that can rescue a lot of dinner conversations. Go ahead, try it. Before you start feeling like this:

my mother's mother--as posed by her son (the young man in the photo above) who, I'm told, had quite a sense of humor


A said...

What fabulous pictures!

Elizabeth said...

Oh, my god -- those photos!

lily cedar said...

I had a slightly heated argument with my mother one day about growing up in Red Deer. She didn't believe me that I had grown up there. She lived there twice, once when my sisters where young and then again when my brother and I were young. She would not believe me. It was a frustrating and scary conversation. And then other days she was as right as rain.

Love the new kayak.

Ms. Moon said...

Great saddle blanket on that cow!
Yes, I think you should not try to delve too deeply into subjects.
I remember when my mother was losing it and sometimes she said the craziest things and then she'd maybe snap out of for a few seconds and it was, besides being horrible and scary, kind of funny.
A teeny, tiny bit. Not so much. But a little.

Andrea said...

So love the old photos.
You have really caught it here, that desire to set things straight up against the value of peace and harmony and letting go. It rarely happens with Alice, but when it does I am in the same state, teetering on that brink, fighting the urge to be right above all. Puppies! Genius!! I will remember that.

Allison said...

My brother's dementia has rendered him incapable of interpreting prices. He can't tell the different between $1.25, $125 or $1,250. I have FINALLY learned to just make pleasant noises when he tells me something that I know can't be true, regarding the cost of an item. I think I'll go with puppies, as well.

Jane said...

As it progresses it's a VERY hard disease. My mother is 88 and it progressed quickly last year from a few 'weird' comments here and there to full on 'huh?' dementia. You might want to read up on Habilitation Therapy so you do know what to say or how to veer conversations. It's now known that at some point you don't want to keep saying "remember" because they don't and won't again. And that telling them to remember things like that their parents or siblings have been dead for 30 years is just mean and painful because for them it is NEW mourning. Oh it just goes on and on...following their fantasy can be very hard, frustrating and scary. And so sad. I'm sorry your mom seems to be going there.