Friday, July 9, 2010

The importance of remembering

I stood and folded laundry while she had her shower. She chatted away to me and asked me questions. She had an infectious giggle that seemed like it traveled from the tip of her toes, up through her body, before finally bubbling out of her mouth. She told me about her puppy and the games she liked to play with it. She told me naughty jokes that she'd learned from her brother.

As I readied myself to wash her hair, she started to clean her feet. Again. It was the fifth time she'd done this, but I didn't say anything. I knew that at her age it was sometimes hard to remember so many steps and which ones were already completed.

For the next few minutes I listened to her tell me about a fight she'd had with her brother. He's younger than her and doesn't think that he should have to listen to his big sister. She thinks otherwise. She called him a couple of names but I kept my thoughts to myself. It was the third time that morning that I'd heard the story, but it seemed to make her feel better to tell it. Besides, it was almost breakfast time and while she ate, I'd be able to busy myself with my own thoughts.

I felt like I should sit and talk to her some more. She'd been confined to the house a fair bit, thanks to the cold she'd had the week before, so she seemed like she needed the time. On the other hand, it was as if the more we talked, the more confused she got.

I suppose that eventually I will get used to this sort of thing. In my line of work I see a lot of people like this. This woman is in her 80s and, while she can remember a lot that happened 10 or 20 or even 50 years ago, she often has trouble remembering anything from 5 minutes ago. It makes me wonder whether it frustrates her or not......whether she even realises what's going on. It must also be hard on the families of these folk. Hard to visit and know that there's a big chance that you won't be recognised. Hard to spend time with someone knowing that no matter how special the time is, the memory of it may be gone 20 minutes later.

I hope that as I get older, no matter how frail and broken my body may get, I will retain my mental faculties. I hope that my family will be around to love me, no matter how forgetful I end up.

I hope that you will hug the old folks in your family and remember that although they may sometimes forget the times they've spent with you, that they still love you. Learn from them, support them, be there for them.

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13 comments:

  1. Wow. What a great post. My husband's Mom (I always called her Mom too) started getting this way towards The End. I always wondered if her lack of memory bothered her too. Then a friend made the comment "she doesnt know, that she doesnt know". It was oddly comforting.
    I agree. When I get older, I don't care if I'm in a wheelchair, I just want to be a storytelling, wise-cracking, brainstorming, smartass until my "The End". Great post.

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  2. My grandpa forgets a lot and it can be hard.

    What is also so hard is my grandma's sister who is 100% mentally, but failing physically. It's so hard on her because she knows what is happening to her body and she can't do anything about it. She's embarrassed and frustrated about getting old. And when she falls or has an accident it's awful. Part of me thinks that if she were a little less aware, she'd be happier.

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  3. My husbands grandmother recently went through this and she was so very frustrated at the end of her life. She would ask us why she couldn't just die? It was extremely sad.

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  4. It’s so hard to watch someone’s memory fail. I always thought that as you aged, you weren’t conscious of the fact that you were. Kind of letting forgetting things, you’d forget that you were forgetting, if that makes sense. It kills me when my grandma calls me by the wrong name then realizes her mistake. She cries and says she knows she’s forgetting. That, to me, seems the cruelest part of aging.

    I’ve been meaning to call my grandma. I’m going to stop putting it off and do it today.

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  5. I cried. Having spent a lot of time in aged care homes due to family members being placed there it struck home.

    I think you have given me my Monday Memoir.

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  6. Amen.
    My grandmother is 90 years old and is just starting to lose her faculties and her memory is slipping. Her health has been pretty good and she still lives on her own.
    It will be a sad day to see her slip away. But 90 years is one long life...

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  7. Having just seen my MIL who is in the last stages of Alzheimer's, I can relate....

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  8. This is so touching and sad. God bless you for your patience and understanding of this dear frail lady.

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  9. It is so wonderful that there are people like you in this world!! Thank you!!!

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  10. This is so well written...I thought you were chatting to your daughter in the first few paragraphs. You probably intended this genius - the way she talks about a little brother etc., and someone of "her age" could mean someone small being unable to remember what she's washed and hasn't. Anyway, it was brilliant.

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  11. You've summed it up perfectly :)

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  12. Beautiful post, Maggie. You are a good soul.

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