One of the driving reasons for my time constrained trip out was to make sure to visit my mother. Even if it is only once a month, I like to go for my own sanity if nothing else. It is not as if I really contribute anything to the management of the situation all, and certainly I have no expectation that my mother remembers such things. The visits really are for me.
The visit this month was on my own as my sister and brother in law were out of town for the weekend. By nature these make for even shorter visits - at least when I am there with my sister we just have a conversation between ourselves and my mother listens in, occasional perking up if my sister mentions anything about teaching, her career for almost 40 years.
My mother mostly sits in the main large room now along with all the other residents, either on couches or in chairs, covered with blankets as it is Winter. Some times we will just sit down on the couch and visit as it seems less disruptive than getting her up and out to the front to visit. Today was no different; I thought - thought - I recognized her from the back as I came in.
It was jarring to me to see her this month: her hair is longer this month as it was last month (she has not worn her hair this long in 60 years or more) but she looked far more frail than I have seen in recent months. Part of this is not a surprise: my sister had said the staff had noted she has been eating less and less and my sister had been buying protein drinks for her. Still, I had not expected this much of a change in a month.
Her attention was off to her left, looking at something that was either on a shelf or a person in a chair. My attempts to engage her in conversation were fruitless; by far this was the least communicative she has been. I could not even engage her enough to get her to turn and look at me. I tried a couple of different tracks - weather and the fact Thanksgiving is coming up - and when neither of those were successful, I said my goodbyes and retired back to parking lot.
The entire visit was less than five minutes.
It is not as if any of this is unexpected: this is the course of the disease. But reading on the course of the disease is one thing; seeing it openly and actively played out is something else entirely. In some portion of my brain, there is the vain hope that at some level there is still something of my mother that will respond when we come to visit, even if it is a small thing The reality is that such things seem simply hopes at that: vague good wishes that have no ability to manifest themselves. For all of my wishing - my hoping - that things will be otherwise, it is simply not so.
I will continue my visits so long as my mother is there to receive them. What I likely have to let go of is the sense that there will be any visible sense of recognition, or perhaps even interest. In either case I need to respect how she is when I arrive, even if I do not react to.
Time enough for such thoughts on the long drive home.