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Explanation of my attitude regarding my mother’s passing - One person's lack of compassion does not equal another's comfort.
One person's lack of comprehension does not equal another's consent.
Explanation of my attitude regarding my mother’s passing
I’ve been informed that my unemotional response, and occasional joyful reaction to the death of my 84 year old mother has disquieted some. I think that the reason I am acting this way is that I am so open about my feelings and I incorrectly imagine that everyone who knows me really understands just how much far my mother my mother had changed from anything I either recognized as my mother, anyone I had loved or for that matter, anyone I even could love.

My fondest memories of either of my parents were from my travels in Europe with them when I was only about 6 to 8 years old. My mother was a great woman in her day, but as long as 3 years ago I had come to terms with the fact that this woman who bore my mother’s name was not merely a mentally-disturbed person, but a hollow shell capable of speech and randomly blurting out paranoid rants buffered with fragments of distorted memories that vaguely resembled parts of her life with either of her two husbands. Any time I started feeling sad about it, my mom would refer to me by the names of my father or sister and I’d reflect that this was a permanent condition and that I should try to focus on the person she was, not the person she is now.

In the past 14 months in the nursing home my mom cycled in and out. She had better and worse days, better and worse phone calls and even cycles of lucidity and dementia within phone calls. As many as five times, she actually appeared to come to terms with her condition only to later forget, rather like “Groundhog Day” and more than once specifically told me that if that’s what life holds for her she’d rather be dead.

No, I did not kill her, nor did the nursing home, but I can unequivocally say that the *END* for her was what she wanted, what she, the LUCID version of my mother, wanted. So no I cannot mourn her physical passing but applaud it, not only for me, but for her.

The rest of this post deals with her long breakdown over time and my observations just in case any of you were unfamiliar with the saga.

I know some of you have met my mother and most all have heard stories, they were all well after my mother’s dementia began. To put this into perspective, the first recollections I had that something was wrong was in 1974 not that long after she passed out in an airport, fell and hit her head on the concrete so *HARD* her glasses flew off and skidded a dozen feet over the linoleum floor. It took her a VERY long time for those who came to her aid to get her to come to, and she never sought medical attention either to diagnose the cause of her “faint” or to evaluate what harm hitting her head that heard could have done.

Exactly 10 years later, 1984, she seemed to be at an unusual best, a way cool mother, very intelligent and even considering taking a teaching job and the local community college, though still occasionally doing really troubling things, like taking her car off the road and driving through pedestrian walkways in local parks.

Between 1980 and 1985 as I recall, she was far more understanding, thoughtful and considerate that I clearly recall her being even earlier in my life or any time afterwards.

Then beginning around 1986, she began acting really twitchy. I can’t recall anything specific at this time, but I can also tell you my parents were fighting a great deal and that I was also in very poor health at the time an living with them. I suppose I may have “blocked’ some of the worst stuff. One time I distinctly recall my mom cooking some chicken livers which had obviously gone bad by anyone’s standards and insisting my father eat them, claiming he had insisted he buy them. He denied having done so and refused to eat anything so foul.

Things went downhill from there, and by 1996 she was still driving a car, but just starting to lose the ability to manage stuff like bills and taxes. It was around that time she had her first car accident as the result of something resembling a “stroke” which at least is how my sister described the incident and I believe her as she was a passenger in the car at the time.

The last six years of her life living in her own house with my father included several minor kitchen fires, putting “advantage” cat flea poison in one of her eyes because she mistook it for eye-gel, another car accident in which she drove into a parked car but we don’t know if she actually passed out or what, cooking frozen food and then putting it back in the freezer (I suppose because that is where it belonged.) Opening cans of cat food and then putting them back into the pantry. Not to mention not actually giving the cats any food or fresh water for long stretches of time, etc. Those were happy times compared to the last couple of years, with my dad dying and my mom moving into the dementia ward of a local nursing home.

Now she’s dead, no longer calling us daily, as often as 40 times a day telling us she’s stranded in a hotel in Canada, England, or NJ, That she lost her car, or her car won’t start, that the roof leaks, that she’s there at a conference with her husband, that her husband died there after a wild “sex party” etc. Admittedly it was pretty amusing but I can’t honestly say that I miss it. OK, I guess I wish I had taped some of these calls... but hindsight is always 20/20.

Then again if anyone wants to have a clue just how whacked my mom really was, I actually have some grainy digitally recorded “home movies” depicting a relatively calm conversation with her some months prior to her entering the nursing home in which she is clearly paranoid and pretty oblivious as to her surroundings.

If I cannot make some (or any) of you understand what the last few years were like or how totally different my mom used to be, then I guess maybe the correct thing for me to do was to pretend that someone I loved dearly had just (as in just recently) died. I guess I’m just weird for having already mourned and already gotten over it. Well no, I guess I’m NOT really over it, as much as I just don’t relate to her physical passing as being the actual point of loss.

If it makes you feel any better I am STILL coming to terms with my Father’s death. Although he too was somewhat demented by the time he died, he was a great deal more interesting and personable when he died and so I really DO miss him even in that condition. Of course with Prostate Cancer, Parkinson's, Diabetes not to mention Blindness, he’d probably be dying pretty soon anyway, so I guess I should be glad that he isn’t still alive as my mother’s death might kill him and then I’d have two funerals to contend with, which would be really awkward as they had different religions and arrangements to be buried in separate states.

"I've learned that I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy it, and
to hell with all those who disagree with me." --Duckman

Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful

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the_mendicant From: the_mendicant Date: February 24th, 2004 01:51 pm (UTC) (Link)


Your feelings are perfectly normal for a man in your situation (is there such a thing as normal, I do wonder sometimes). You have no need to feel guilty about not acting in a socially acceptable manner.

I'm sure you did your mourning over many years and I can totally understand your relief now. I was a nurse for 10 years and saw many cases where death was the kindest thing that could have happened. We kept people alive with technology who were suffering daily. Had it been an animal we would have been charged with prolonging cruelty.

I have relatives going through similar trauma with their elderly mother at present - she has no idea what planet she is on, undresses herself day and night and is constantly trying to phone her dead husband. My batchelor cousins have moved in with her because she is too distressed by unfamiliar surroundings to contemplate a nursing home yet, but it is ruining their health and peace of mind. She was such a 'correct' lady, it is heartbreaking to contemplate her now.

When you are so pushed into a corner by life, you either break or come out defending yourself with grim humour. You have chosen the better course. Don't allow yourself to be rattled by those who have little understanding of your situation. Niether however, assume that your mourning is done. You could be fine for the next 18 months, then something may trigger a huge reaction in you. This is perfectly normal too.

Just enjoy the hiatus, and be kind to yourself and those you love.

Best of luck xxx
vvalkyri From: vvalkyri Date: February 25th, 2004 06:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hm, could've sworn I'd replied to this the other night.

*hugs* I've understood all along. Part of my discomfort was in feeling that it foreshadowed my relationship with my grandmother.
fixx From: fixx Date: February 25th, 2004 07:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

Forewarned is four-armed. :-)

Foreshadowed, maybe.

The difference is that my sister and I went through it all without very much help or guidance from others. I'd like to think that the silver lining is that I can help my friends, like you, to be a little better prepared and take the needed steps to make less of a mess of it than we did.
ladyorena From: ladyorena Date: February 26th, 2004 07:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think I can relate to what you're saying. My grandmother was much like your mother in terms of her condition in her final years. Fortunately my mother only suffered thru one period of dementia, and then got her mind back, although she didn't get her speech back. As much as I miss my mother, I was very happy and relieved when she died, knowing that she would no longer be suffering. It is much better to go quickly, if we can, in my personal opinion. And it's perfectly fine for you to feel, however you are feeling at this time. Everyone has their own way of dealing with their feelings and emotions and I don't think there is a right or a wrong way. Take care.
sweetmmeblue From: sweetmmeblue Date: March 5th, 2004 01:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I understand what you said. My father took 5 years from diagnosis to death and we watch illness take him piece by piece. However, he remained lucid through all of it, right up until the end.

bittercat From: bittercat Date: March 15th, 2004 04:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

I know...

I know, as a friend of yours (bumps and all!) that you were already hurting over the loss of your mother--the loss that happened when her latest decline went full swing. You are not super expressive, but as a friend, I could feel your pain. I know these were some of the hardest years of your life, especially when you couple this with your father's death. I know that you have been having a hard time of things on the family end for years.

I also know that, as the highly intelligent person your mother clearly was at one time, this was likely preferable for her. I hope she finds peace. I hope you do, too!
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