Common themes stay common themes, repeated stories will repeat, but change is obdurate. Now the story is told in a new way, with a twist.
Babu always, as you, constant readers, know, tells the story of how her mother could only have one child. (This might be an inappropriate time to snicker but I’m thrilled that a have a few constant readers! I hope I don’t get sued!!) The doctor was a drunk, did not perform the delivery correctly, and her mother could have no more children. It is one of the two biggest regrets Babu has. The other is that she didn’t force her husband to stop smoking and he died of lung cancer. She has never used the word regret, and certainly it wasn’t a choice she or even her mother made, but she brings it up so often that I can tell she feels that way. She has told me many times that it isn’t good for someone to not have a sibling.
The other day she started to tell the story as if she only had one child. She did again today and I, again, didn’t know what to do. It’s hard not to be appalled. She had four children, it has to be some kind of sin to forget your children. That, of course, is the wrong way to feel. I hid that and then was able to let that feeling go quickly. This is all uncharted, dark waters for me, her mental changes. I don’t know if I did the wrong thing but I stopped her and asked her how many children she had. She holds up her finger emphatically. One!
“No,” I say, “How many did you have?” Her hand goes up again and I’m starting to somehow know less of what to do then when I started.
“No Babu, you had four kids.” This is going on too long. She doesn’t remember. Should I just tell her? At this point do to I have to let her remember on her own? “Can you think of your kids names? …It was your mother who only had one.” Then after another moment of silence I begin to say “You had-” and she waves me off. Talking about her mother triggered some understanding and now she’s got it. I didn’t give enough wait time and all teachers know wait time gets harder and harder to do when emotions and stress start to wiggle in.
“I had four children,” She says, and just like that she is able to rattle off all of their names, in birth order.
A sigh of relief. I think more about this and my theories about it. I don’t think this is really about early signs of Alzheimer’s or Dementia. I may be fooling myself but I know she is more forgetful and has a harder time understanding things now but I think there are other factors at play here. My initial thoughts was the familiarity of the story just became her or the sympathy for what happened to her mother internalized. But then she said: “Oh, I just got mixed up because I was thinking how I was the only kid.” In a way that makes sense to me. A small jump from I was the only child to I only had one child. Maybe that’s what Alzheimer’s or Dementia are, those small jumps that get bigger and bigger? I don’t know and I simultaneously think at least I understand how she thinks and that I don’t understand any of this at all.
These are the small moments and the worries of the moments. Babu is good these days. She is being well taken care of and she takes care of us, too. Some things are bound to slip at her age and I’m just trying to let the universe do it’s thing. We are lucky. Thank you Universe.