Debra Moore

The World According to ME


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Descent

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How in the hell did we get here? And what could I possibly do to learn from this and go forward, with her, as she became an alien in disguise of my mother, the worst kind of deceit.

She had been in trouble for some time, anyone could see that. I had quit my part time work and focused on researching, joining dementia support groups, defining my mode of attack because, by God we would be fine. No Mom of mine would suffer: we would be different, we would conquer and she would melt into a sweet but doddering new version of my beloved. Debra was the oldest, the smartest and most willing to drive the beast into submission. Failure was not an option I ever accepted, and would not begin now.

This night would alter everything. So far she had been able to sleep in her own room with me on Dad’s side of the bed so that I could be there for any stirring or fright she might experience. Mostly, she slept right through the night, maybe with one or two bathroom trips, no problem. On this night she awoke screaming. There was something at the foot of her bed that absolutely terrified her. Her face contorted, and gurgling in fear she fought to climb over me to escape the monster.

With some effort she recognized me and I took her hand and led her to the living room beside the wood stove, her haven, where she studied her Bible and held court with songs and tales from life on the road with a bus full of Texas Playboys. I offered juice, stroked her hair and succeeded in breathing slowly, encouraged her to do the same. In this moment of calm I left the room for a bathroom break and came back to hell. She was in the kitchen, sandwich baggie in hand, as she stuffed it with rubber bands, a fork, some salt shaken right in. I asked her what she was trying to do and she simply said she was leaving. Packing. Would I please grab her car keys and put them in the bag? I obeyed, grabbed another baggie as hers was already full of essential items. She added a couple of fridge magnets and her favorite cup. Her face, that face I knew better than my own was now thoroughly alien.

Suddenly she made for the door, and this being November, she in her nightgown without shoes she opened that door and headed out. I forgot all of my carefully learned dementia-management techniques so fast it alarmed me. I grabbed her arm and not too gently attempted to bring her back inside. She began to scream. She fought me, scratched my arms as I firmly held her and dragged her back into the kitchen. Now I was trying to kill her, steal from her. And then there was a knock at the door.

The sheriff deputy stood there, alerted by a neighbor that something was going on that needed attention. And my mother transformed herself into a perfect picture of calm. Yes, she said, my daughter is trying to kill me. She takes my money, she lives here without helping her with anything; please could you take her away so that she would be safe? I could see the deputy was conflicted and, lucky for me my brother was living just two doors away and came immediately. It took three hours to restore calm with the help of pharmaceuticals and soothing redirection. But this was only the beginning.

I always replay this scene in my darker moments of recollection. There would be no victories. My Mom’s journey would continue and I would mark each lower plateau with confusion and then acceptance. But it was this night that showed me more about her disease, this hideous transformer of little southern ladies into foreign creatures than anything else. This was the night she became a stranger. She showed me, that night, that my love for her was not going to make one bit of difference in the face of her madness. And onward we went, together.

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Of mouths, and what comes out

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I have already introduced Tess and need to also introduce her little brother, second-born Sam. Sam was different: nothing pleased him more than playing with his big Sis. So much so that  instead of crashing cars, catching bugs or cavorting and wrestling he preferred the more gentile arts: dolls, playing dress up with Tess’ clothing, dolls, makeup….you get it.

So intent were his parents that Sam not be chastised or judged for his choices, a visit from my cousin from Texas (enter proud gay man and accomplished landscape architect) presented the perfect opportunity for Sam to become, let’s say, familiar with an alternative to mainstream macho. Ah, the wonder of progressive parenting.

On this day Sam and Steve (said cousin) had spent a pleasant afternoon in the backyard learning about weeds, flowers, and the proper way to propagate seedlings complete with demos and ready-to-sprout sunflowers. Sam was thrilled! He carefully placed his collection of anticipatory experiments lined perfectly on the deck: tiny egg crate pots holding mysterious promise. Tickled pink he was.

After a BBQ featuring Sam’s favorite, tube steak, I watched Mom Sherry place his cake on the table. Sam and I were seated across from each other and his little face shone with pride and the joy that only a 6 year old can bestow on these occasions that is all about them!

I noticed the single, large candle in the middle. This candle was fat and colored with swirling, brightly colored design. It immediately reminded me of times past, the glorious 60’s. Remember when everything during that time was infused with that convoluted and whirling design? Yup. We called it ‘psychedelic, man.’ I eagerly proceeded to explain to Sam about the ‘way back time’ and how this cake-topper resembled this fashionable artistic formula.

‘Psychedelic, Sam, that is what we called this.’ All swirly and pretty: this is called psychedelic!

I eagerly watched Sam as he listened and processed this information. But something was wrong. His face was showing a decidedly uncertain and confused demeanor. Sherry and I waited for a clue as to what might be bothering him about this perfectly sound and informative offering. He sat forward, leaned in, pointed that precious 6 year old finger on the top of that taper and said:

 

 

‘Yeah, but Aunt Deb, around here we just call them candles.’