Mum always used to say: "Whatever happens, be happy for me if I die suddenly, just like that. I don't want to end up in a home, with a lot of old, 'gaga' people."
The thing is - she has now. She is in a dementure home - which, luckily, she loves. And I cannot quite explain why I'm writing about her in the past tense.
Alzheimer's is a cruel disease.
For the individual sufferer, it is initially painful, as you are still aware of your persona turning into some kind of.. half existence. I can only imagine, but it seems to me like part of you is still with 'the living' whereas the other part is slowly sliding into oblivion. And there's a lot of fear and panic to be had along the way.
However, I think it is right to describe this disease as "the relatives' disease". Once your loved one moves into the 'other world', you are on your own. The mum you knew is no longer. And you were never given the chance to say goodbye.
I feel it is as if she is dying... gradually. You have already started to mourn the mum that was - but only within yourself. I mean - she is still there, in body. In mum's case, a very active and able body. I take lots of pictures of her. But at the same time, they are not photos of the 'real' mum - the mum I remember, the mum she's always been. They are photos of the mum I've got now.
The feelings, the sincerity, the warmth, the humour is still there between us. I just gave her a goodnight kiss before leaving her new home this evening and I think we both felt the mother-daughter connection as 'per normal'. What makes it hard is to hear her repeating the same questions, telling the same stories and not knowing what day it is. Even when that day is Christmas Eve. She gets all our names wrong and cannot distinguish between generations when talking about people. She sees and hears people who are not there and can get into a sad mood, for no obvious reason - followed by an incredible, almost speeded, upbeat mood. Not at all like the mum I knew.
Last Easter, she gave me a ring. Neither she, nor me have been much for wearing rings. But this particular ring was one she cherished and - I also liked it. She told me she wanted me to have it. She said: "When I was young, I really wanted this ring, just for myself. I saved up and paid for it - and now I would like you to have it." I felt honoured.
Since Easter, I have worn it every day. But now, she keeps asking me where I got it from. "Have you bought a new ring? I really like it!" she goes. It hurts to hear it.
I am clearing out her old home at the moment. It's something we all dread to have to do, but... you don't imagine doing it with the person in question still being alive. It all feels very confusing and sad.