Well, we made it through the night, kind of. Mama Eula woke us up at 5am by turning on all the lights in the house. She seemed surprised to find us asleep in our beds. I quickly turned them off and led her outside into the kitchen, allowing S to get back to sleep. My body felt slightly sick from so little sleep (we stayed up reading until early morning).
“I was just looking for everyone,” she explained as she waved her hands around, “and I didn’t see no one.” The worry shown on her face. “But now I found you,” she finished. I nodded, and got some water for us. Eventually, I convinced her to join me in my bed, and I fell back asleep, occasionally awakening to answer questions about where we were, and where everyone else was.
But she couldn’t fall back asleep and wanted to work on her clothes in the living room. I grabbed my quilt and followed her into the hall. I found a spot on the couch and fell asleep. From the distance of light sleep, I listened to her walking around talking to her pictures and packing and unpacking her clothes.
Sophia and I are here with Mama Eula for the next week or two. I am adding these clarifying details slightly after the fact for safety reasons. She has Alzheimer’s, and we are her primary caretakers. I am twenty-one. Sophia is twelve. We are in Kentucky, but from New York. We’re getting a crash course in a certain kind of loving and living and surviving, and you’re welcome to come along. Not that I have much time to write.
How much can I write here about her condition and what is going on? I don’t know. I’m trying to put myself in my grandmother’s shoes. Would I be okay with my granddaughter writing about me losing my mind on the internet? Yeah, I really don’t know. Just because she’ll never know doesn’t really make a difference, does it? And just because this is my way of coping, well, does that change things?
One of the most difficult (and constant) tasks Sophia and I struggle with is this: helping Mama Eula maintain her dignity. Mama Eula describes it as “being worthy.” A few times a day she says she isn’t “worthy to live anymore.” When I hear this, I shake my head, but her comments really leave me at a loss for words. Once she added on, “I’d kill myself if I could.” Oh, Alzheimer’s, how cruel you can be.
We aren’t rushing, at all, ever. And I try to wait for her to finish her jumbled sentences before I guess what she wants to say. I am trying to remember that although this may not be the same Mama Eula I grew up with, she’s still a person with feelings and a soul. (Duh, you might say, but unless you’ve dealt with someone with impaired memory and personality changes, you may not have much empathy for me, and that’s okay, I hope you never do.)
But she can be so frustrating sometimes! Like with the doors and windows. She wants them all open all the time, which would be fine if it wasn’t almost 100 degrees outside. But there’s no arguing with her. Not that I refuse to try, just that we don’t get anywhere. She can get violent, which is NOT her usual temperament, so it’s always unexpected and scary.
Yesterday I put signs on all the doors that read “KEEP CLOSED,” and the doors stayed closed. But every few minutes, she asked me what the sign meant. Eventually, I decided it wasn’t worth it and took the signs off.
This is what our list looks like for today:
- Breakfast (S made omelets)
- Bury the two baby birds I found outside this morning, I think they fell from their nest during the storm yesterday. (Mama Eula took care of them before I could return with the shovel. By the time I returned, two shovels in hand, she had thrown them off the cliff, she looked at me and said, “you poor thing, you look like you might cry all day.”
- Laundry (Didn’t happen)
- Thrift store for buttons (Terrible. Mama Eula made us turn around.)
- Bookstore (Nope.)
- Exploring (Not even the yard.)