A few friends have asked me over the past week about “the visit” and how it went and I’m pleased to report that it actually wasn’t too bad. Mum and Dad came to stay last Friday night and then they picked up the new little dog on Saturday morning as arranged, stayed for lunch with me and my rabble and then drove the 200 miles back up to Scotland again.
It was a touch stressful and it was certainly nothing like what a visit from my parents used to be like (long walks in whatever weather, food – lots of it, some decorating or DIY saved up ready for their arrival, gardening advice, pots prepared for the Spring, the kids activities watched and celebrated….I could go on. I won’t) but it was not as distressing as I had imagined it might be.
Granted, I was out all of Friday night (my band was the entertainment at a fabulous Tour de Yorkshire party) so I missed most of their visit and had to leave my parents in the capable (though slightly pissed off) hands of Hubby. He was not impressed with me having plans I couldn’t change and made his feelings very clear prior to the impending visit. Happily, Friday night passed uneventfully for him, with regards to Mum anyway. Maggie, my dad’s puppy however, was not so well behaved and howled and cried intermittently for several hours, until I got in at 1am and after an hour of listening to her heart-breaking howls, I decided to deposit her very quietly and very gently in my parents’ room (aka Archie’s room) for the remainder of the night. The sound of my dad’s breathing and the smell of him seemed to calm her and she was quiet (so I assume happy) then until morning. Hubby was up early for the gym and work. He must have unsettled Mum who wandered into my room at 5.40, semi-naked and tried to get into bed with me. “Whoa there Mother! Let’s get you back upstairs,” said I. I don’t think I’ve ever leaped out of bed that fast, certainly not at that ridiculous time in the morning anyway.
So, despite my early morning visit and the howling dog all went well really. I have just re-read those words and it’s funny that I have described those hours with Mum as going well. This time last year, when the delusions were just starting, I would have classed this weekend as incredibly hard, stressful beyond belief, worrying and upsetting. But, our classification of ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’ has changed and is constantly changing. Just as we get used to how things are and we prepare ourselves to cope with the new reality, the new Mum, then things change again. It seems to be the only certainty in this shitty situation…..a certainty that nothing will stay the same for long, that we need to be on our toes and ready to accept new and upsetting challenges all the time.
Mum wasn’t happy when they first arrived, cross that “that man” had driven her car without asking her permission. I tried to calm her, pointing out that she cannot drive just now, so isn’t it good that he has driven her down to see us? “I can drive if I like. How do you know I can’t drive? Who told you I can’t drive?” I quickly made a mental note to self: change the subject Sarah. Now! It didn’t get any better, not for a few hours. She kept putting her coat on and wanting to go and see Stephen as he “lives just around the corner. That’s right isn’t it?” Mmmmm….
I am still lost for words sometimes, despite being more used to the odd conversations and the sudden changes in subject or the complete lack of clarity in anything that she says. But, when she talks about my dad, about “that man”, when she gets upset because she hasn’t seen him for such a long time, or she tells me she thinks he’s with other women or is sleeping rough somewhere, I am absolutely flummoxed and dumbstruck. How do I respond to that? I want to defend him and tell her she’s the one who’s bloody gone off somewhere! I want to tell her she’s driving us all nuts and that does she know how ridiculous she sounds!?!?! I want to scream at the top of my lungs that this is her illness talking and to get a bloody grip woman! I have tried these things before though, trying to rationalise her thoughts and behaviours with her, tying to make her see sense. Trying to get her to understand the difference between her thoughts and delusions and reality but it never helps. In the early days she would pretend that she believed me, she would play along with my version of reality for a while before the veil dropped again. Now though it just makes things worse and unsettles her more. But, even knowing this and knowing what I should not say, doesn’t help me to form words – any words that I could say, that might be the right way to respond. Do I just tell her that yes, Stephen lives nearby but it’s not the right time, he’ll not be in? Do I tell her that he’s coming round to see us instead, but perhaps later? Do I say we’ve got a plan to meet up with him and it’s all booked in the diary? I’ve done this before, telling her lies to try and deflect the situation, to try and get out of a sticky moment and the bloody irony is that she always seems to remember my lies! She remembers the fibs and the lies I tell her to distract her, yet she cannot remember my name sometimes (“Hello, Sheila”) or who my dad is. She knows I have told her I will get her to the train station the next morning to let her “go home”, but she doesn’t remember where the fridge is, or how to turn the f**king oven on. It is almost funny and I am sure one day in the very distant future I will laugh about it. Now though….now I can’t.
So, thank you to all my friends who thought about us over the weekend and to those who have since asked how it went. ‘It was okay’, is the honest answer. I have seen her a whole lot worse and I also vividly remember my real mum, my mum pre-dementia, my mum who was capable of anything she set her mind to….and last weekend – well, let’s just say it wasn’t as bad as I had envisioned. I had imagined we might have to deal with the police and traumatic sectioning, but thankfully it didn’t come to that. The new dog might not be staying though – Dad’s not sure about having two, I think it is a lot more work than he imagined and it therefore, might be a bit much for him seen as his new unwanted role of carer is becoming more and more demanding as each week goes by. So, it looks like they’ll be coming down again in a week or two to bring the little dog back again. I haven’t yet told Hubby and I haven’t checked my diary for gigs…..fingers crossed that it will all go as smoothly as possible and we can all try and enjoy each others’ company again.
F**king dementia……how I hate you with every inch of my being.