A Familiar Twinkle in her Eye

As I wrote last time, my mother had a fall in the late spring and what with breaking her hip and arm, a heavy dose (too heavy? maybe) of heavy drugs, she woke up in a very muddled state of mind. In the rehab hospital she had good days and bad, lots of paranoia. Many days she was just our mom — stuck in bed, unable to walk and not very happy about any of it.


Then one night she woke up in the dark and decided she had to get up and do the dishes.


Since that night, her second fall and another trip to Mercy’s emergency department, she has spent more and more time in a world of her own. Before you think that this is going to be a misery-me about old age and dementia, just wait a minute. This world my mom lives in now is pretty nice and she’s happy there.


First the facts. We’ve moved her from rehab to a residential skilled nursing facility. The McColl Center is affiliated with St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral and the staff is wonderful. They keep an eye on her just in case she wants to get up and do a bit of housework again. The chef knows how to cook vegetables so they crunch a little; it’s easy to wheel her outside, no elevators involved. She’s been on field trips, which she enjoys and makes use of in her absolutely wonderful fantasy life.


During her last days at the rehab hospital all her head trips involved abuse, neglect and conspiracies — often highly political as you might expect if you know our mother. None had any basis in fact that any of the family could determine. Since going to McColl that’s changed.


If Mom were unhealthy and still imagining herself pursued by demons, dementia would be a nightmare; but her heart and lungs are strong and these days she is almost always happy when I see her. Smiling and eager to tell me wonderful stories about the jobs she’s been offered, the places she’s gone and the very interesting people she meets. She has friends she tells me she’s known for years. One, she known since they went to school together at Fintona in Melbourne.


There’s one odd thing about our mother’s dementia. Sometimes in the middle of a great story, I think I see a familiar twinkle in her eye. And I wonder: in a corner of her mind, does she know she’s making all this up? Is she doing it to entertain herself? And us?

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