“You’re so beautiful,” said Alice. “I’m afraid of looking at you and not knowing who you are.”
“I think that even if you don’t know who I am someday, you’ll still know that I love you.”
“What if I see you, and I don’t know that you’re my daughter, and I don’t know that you love me?”
“Then, I’ll tell you that I do, and you’ll believe me.”
― Lisa Genova, Still Alice
I came across this quote today from the movie “Still Alice” and for a moment it took my breath away. I can find peace and some comfort in the words though – not sadness. I know from the bottom of my heart my mom never, ever, wanted to be where she is today! So all I can do is tell her – every day – that I love her, that I’ll never leave her, and she’ll never be alone. There are days when I’m not sure she hears me, but I tell her anyway, for both of our sakes. I firmly believe it’s true – when my mom stops knowing who I am, she’ll still have the capacity to feel my love.
So, what regrets? I regret dodging those scary conversations with my mom about her “forgetfulness” and her memory loss. Growing up in my family, we dealt with difficult or uncomfortable topics by not talking about them. We would go to great lengths to avoid a difficult subject on the chance it might cause some kind of distress. If this is not your life experience, you can’t imagine what it’s like to weigh your decisions based on what the other person might think, feel, or do. Relating to people you love in this way makes life a lot harder than it needs to be and is an extremely tough habit to break!
My mom and Smokey moved to Oregon in December 2012. She had talked for years about moving to Oregon, but just couldn’t organize herself to make it happen – I guess we now know why…
We involved my mom in each move, but as her dementia increased, I was not honest with her about what was happening. I failed to ask if she understood why she was moving. Were there things she wanted to say while she still could – while the memories were still there? Was she scared? Regrettably, I’ll never know.
In just over three years she moved from:
Senior Independent Housing – January 2013
Assisted Living – May 2014
Memory care – September 2015
A bittersweet embrace with Ron, mama’s beau – on moving day from Corvallis Caring Place to Conifer House. She was happy and carefree that day as we said our goodbyes to friends made in the past year. I cried on the drive all the way to Conifer House, mama’s new home.