Saying it makes it seem so simple or cut and dried, but there's so much more that the simple word 'dementia' doesn't cover. So much that I've lost of the person who was my mother, a brilliant and courageous woman who wrote three novels and travelled most of the world on her own.
Nowadays she is a sweet, elderly child. She is amused by childish things, like bright-coloured beads or dogs we see in passing on our walks. She likes watching movies and going for ice cream. She once climbed the Hindu Kush mountains and travelled to Samarkand.
She obtained a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto when she was my present age and now she can barely string a sentence together because she has lost much of her vocabulary.
Today I took her to visit her sister. In a cruel twist of fate, my aunt, who is nearly 90, has lost none of her faculties except her mobility. They reminisced about their childhoods and Mom had a great time. I wish I could get her over to see my aunt more frequently but my schedule doesn't always allow it and my aunt lives in another part of the city to us.
Nine months ago, after my mother suffered another bad fall, this time breaking her ankle, (the previous bad break had been two vertebrae in her thoracic spine, which is to say, she broke her neck) I witnessed a real deterioration of her mental faculties. She had been living downtown in a seniors apartment but it was becoming very apparent that she needed more supervision, especially after the falling down began. So I moved her into a small retirement home near where I live and attempt to see her at least twice a week. The move unhinged her even more though, and every day I live with that guilt. Still, I think she would have been dead by now if I had left her where she was.
I grieve for the loss of my best friend and intellectual sparring partner. We always read the same novels and appreciated the same writers and writing styles. She encouraged me to start my literary discussion forum Constant Reader and always promised me she would post something there one day but never did.
I assure myself that she will adjust to where she now lives but in my heart I know she won't and every day she gets lonelier and slips aways from me more and more. She is 86 next week. I wonder how much longer I will have her and who she will become in time.