Becoming Someone Else: a fading memory

I wish sometimes I had a little camera on my glasses so I can visually show my parents the situation when I explain it to them later than 4:30am. 

I faintly hear my voice in the dark surrounding my dream state. In a panic, I open my sleepy eyelids and wait for sound to break through the darkness once again. It’s muted, but I hear it, my name ringing out in my grandmothers voice over and over, a desperate plea for help.

Flying forward, I sit up, swing my legs over the edge of the bed until my feet touch the floor. I try to stable myself as she calls my name louder. My instinct is to run, but I’m half awake and my room is dark, so instead I stumble to the door as I pick away at the crusts in the corners of my eyes. For a brief moment, I wonder if I’m sleep walking.

The lack luster lighted hallway is weeping. I follow the sound of my name to find my grandmother leaning against the bathroom door-jam in distress. She has half of her pajamas on and is missing a sock, who knows how long her feeble little legs have been standing there waiting for someone, anyone, to rescue her. 

I reassure her she is fine, but can see she needs to sit. Tip toeing past the mess on the floor, I reach her walker, trapped in the small corner between the toilet and the bathtub, clear the seat of the newspaper and glass of water before  lowering her in it, then removing her from chaos to settle her in the living room chair. 

After she’s comfortable, I tell her I have to go to the bathroom; I do not want her to fully realize the mess she made trying to clean out her poopy liquid absorbing disposable briefs in the toilet. Luckily, dementia has blocked her from reality’s disasters and later she will not remember a thing. 

Armed with rubber gloves, cleaning supplies, and a bowl, I return to the scene of the crime, close the door and begin reversing time with each swipe of the hot towel on the brown floor, until the tile and grout is white again. I then scoop out as much as I could of the brown yellow gel from the toilet bowl into a trash bag and flush in hopes all was well with the septic tank.

As a caretaker there are many things I’ve seen. Matter of fact this incident is the second one like this, except the first time I caught her before the brief was gutted. Her 99-year old memory only knows to clean out the mess, as I’m sure she’s done many times when her boys were young and her mind was sharp. But as her memory slowly drifted into Alzheimer’s, even Dementia, and though instincts remain true, the criteria has changed and she does not coherently understand the ramifications of situations and all the why’s, who’s, what’s, how’s, and when’s life throws at her. 

So, in the trauma from the morning she knew to get to the bathroom and even in her hysterics, to clean the briefs. But what she did not know, was what she did not understand. My heart breaks for this stage of end life care, slowly watching a disease take her from me, watching someone I knew become someone neither of us know. 



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