There are memory surprises in dementia. Most of the time, these surprises tend to be upsetting as you realize your loved one has misplaced or lost another memory. However, sometimes the surprises are wonderful, endearing, and comical. And, you just have to laugh.
I see my mother every day. She knows I’m coming because the staff gets her ready for bed first after dinner and sits her in a comfy spot to wait for me. Mom also asks them if I’m coming, so I know she knows who I am. That being said, every night when I leave, I tell her, “I’ll see you tomorrow, Mom.” It is always a complete surprise for her because she doesn’t remember that I am there every day. She will also sometimes make comments that indicate she doesn’t know when she last saw me. But she knows me.
How She Lost Me
A couple of weeks ago, Mom asked me if I had her brother’s address. She wanted to write and thank him for a postcard he sent her. I told her I did, as well as his email address. She seemed surprised. I let her know we keep in contact. I innocently related how I have had his street address since I went to England many years ago, and that we stayed with him.
We then got into a two-hour conversation about her side of the family, covering a few generations. I told her what I remembered and asked her questions. Her long-term memory is still good. She was surprised that I knew so much about her family history, and kept asking me how I knew. I told her I remembered things she had told me over the years and had also gotten a good family tree from her brother. She continued to be astounded, and I was feeling very accomplished and appreciated.
Then she burst my bubble.
“How are you connected to my side of the family?”
How She Got Me Back
I leaned forward and placed my hand on her arm. “By you giving birth to me?”
Mom was floored and speechless for a moment and then opened her arms for a big hug. “Come here and give me a hug! I haven’t given you enough hugs in your life!” She would hardly let me go. It was as if she had found her child who had been lost decades ago. What a celebration! She was so happy.
I was laughing and giving her big hugs. However, on the inside, I was baffled. She knows I’m her daughter. What happened? Later I told myself, “Well, maybe it was because our conversation went back in time, and she lost track of the here and now.”
The next night she greeted me, “Hello, Suzanne. And what have you been up to today?” We were back on track.
Then she did it to me again.
Who am I When I’m Someone Else?
A few nights later, she said to me, “Since I last saw you, a lady came to visit. She was very nice, and she knew all about my family.”
D’oh!! (to quote Homer).
Again, I leaned forward and touched her arm. “That was me, Mom.”
I should read my own blog posts. I recently wrote about how fluid things are with dementia and that a change does not necessarily mean that is how things are going to be from then on. (Click here to read “Inconsistent Memory and Nightly Rituals.”)
My own daughter reassured me, “Well at least you know she thinks you are a nice lady.”
True. And she was very happy to discover I was her daughter. You don’t get that kind of authentic display of affection every day.
It is funny, and you do just have to laugh.
(Click here to read another related post, “Dealing with Delusions and Memory Loss.”)