Dementia snuck in quietly.
It started off with not remembering how use her Gmail account to send out resumes. I spent hours upon hours reteaching her how to send attachments until I took over emailing for her. I would come home from work and job search for her for hours, writing cover letters, sending emails.
She told everyone she spent her days job searching. When I'd question her because I knew I was the one doing the emails, she'd tell me 'What do you know what I do when you're not home?"
I stopped arguing with her and let her take credit for my job searching. Maybe she was job searching after all, what do I know?
"How do you play this again? Why do the rules keep changing?" She threw her Uno cards down in frustration and walked away.
I shrugged my shoulders. Maybe she wasn't in the mood to play games, I rationalized. It was late. I don't always think straight when I'm exhausted. I brushed it off. We'll play another day. I didn't give it another thought.
She forgot that I was in a car accident.
I had been rear-ended on my way home from work the previous Friday. I was okay but the person who hit me busted my fuel tank. I realized this as I bought gas before I got into the accident. By the time I got home, after driving my poor car home, I had no gas in my tank. We talked about this all weekend and speculated about what exactly was wrong with my car and made bets on how much damage did this person cause to my car (The answer was $1600 worth of damage).
She stared at me as I reminded her of the events of that day in confusion. Finally, she shook her head and told me that she remembered. How could she forget? She laughed uneasily.
I immediatly Googled tests for dementia; she passed the tests I found with flying colors. She laughed at me and told me nothing was wrong. I tried pushing it out of my mind. Nothing was wrong, she said. People forget things all the time, I reminded myself. I tried to shake it off.
But the uneasiness never left me.
"Hillary, she hasn't showered in weeks. She's not changing her sheets. I can't tell you the last time she did her laundry."
"What are you talking about?" My mother was known for her cleanliness; this had to be a lie.
"I'm not making this up. I swear to you. She says she has and argues with me when I tell her to shower or to do her laundry. She tells me 'What do you know what I do when you're not home?""
"I'll talk to her."
I sit with her and I make a list of things that she needs to do. Shower, laundry, make food. She nods and holds on to the list for dear life.
She called me one night.
"Hillary, I don't know where I am. Come get me."
"What do you mean you don't know where you are?"
"I went to get my nails done and out to dinner with Berta but I don't remember how to get home."
"Where are you now?" I begin to yell and panic.
Pause. I begin to hyperventilate imagining the worst.
"There's a church next to me, I think. It's a green church."
I think frantically. Where is there a green church around here? I dig for my keys ready to run out; to where I'm not sure, but I have to rescue her.
Finally she says, "The sign says St. Elizabeth's."
I figured out where she was and raced to go save her; hoping nothing happened to her. Luckily she had pulled into the parking lot and waited for me. I almost fall to my knees in thanks when I see her standing next to her beloved car.
I began taking her to the doctor for tests. She can't remember how to use the coffee machine or the remote control; let alone, showering, changing clothes, doing laundry. She panicked when she was left alone.
"Ma'am, are you a smoker?" The doctor asks her.
"No! I have never smoked a day in my life!" She answers belligerantly.
"Mommy, you smoked every day for over 30 years."
She glares at me and begins to shout. "What do you know? I know myself and I know I don't smoke. Why do you want to make me look bad?"
I slunk as low as I could in my chair. I wondered to myself am I crazy or is she crazy? I prayed that the tests would find something that would bring my mother back to who she was.
The doctor refers us to a neuropsychologist for a battery of tests.
The neuropsychologist administers the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. She asks my mother to draw a clock. "This is easy," I think to myself as my mother says the same words out loud. As I watched her draw the clock, I froze in my chair unable to believe what I was watching. She drew a circle just fine but her numbers were on top of each other to the top left of the circle. The neuropsychologist then asked my mother to count back from 100 by sevens. My mother is a bookkeeper; this should be a breeze I thought. She got stuck on 93.
At that moment, I couldn't breathe. I couldn't think straight. What does this mean?
I later learned that not being able to draw a clock is an indicator of dementia.
His words were like a gunshot. "Ma'am, I'm sorry to tell you that you have Alzheimer's dementia."
I almost fall out of my chair.
"What does this mean for me?" she asks. Luckily, one of us had the right mind to ask that question at that moment.
The doctor explains about dementia, things that can be done to slow down the progression, medications that can be taken. My mind is fixated on the word dementia. I numbly take the phamphlets given to us, the medication samples, and we walk out holding hands back to the car.
"Mommy, I promise you that you will be the prettiest dementia patient. We're going to get through this. We're going to fight this dementia together." We smile at each other and walk quietly for a few moments as we process what the doctor said.
"Hillary?" She stops walking and I stop in my tracks. She looks lost.
"Who has dementia?"
I try to figure if she's joking or serious. "You do," I tell her gently.
"Why would the doctor say I have dementia? I don't have dementia."
This was written for LJ Idol: Week 3 - Brushback Pitch. A Brushback Pitch is a baseball term that refers to a pitch aimed close to the body so that the batter must step back to avoid it.