When the Truth No Longer Matters

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal

is my beautiful mother at the age she thinks she is
now.  Or sometimes she thinks she’s
younger than this, still a child going to school or one who lives in her parents’
house. She constantly wants to go home because they will be worried about her.
Oh, to be able to go home to where confusion didn’t muddle things, where those
she loves are still alive and well and ready to welcome her back. She has no
use for this place where people are continually refusing to let her put on her
shoes and walk home.

Other times she’s more the age she is in this picture. Early
thirties or late twenties. Her children are still young. Her husband still
needs to have supper cooked for him. A lot of the time she can’t understand why
he doesn’t want to come around anymore. Lately that has changed somewhat to she
just talked to him this morning or he just left. At times it feels as though I’m
in the midst of a crowd of invisible people – those she sees in her memory’s
eye who are so real to her. She’ll ask, “Has Maggie left?” Or “Where did she
go?” I’ve never known a Maggie in our family or any friend of Mom’s named
Maggie now or in the past. Well, we did have a Maggie cat once, but she’s
talking about a person and not a cat. 

Most of the time it is a name I do know. People who have passed on. Her
sisters. Her mother and father. My father. She sometimes doesn’t know me now. I’m
way too old. Older than she is. I tease about that with my kids – about how
they somehow got older than me. But I never imagined that someday, if dementia steals my reality, I might actually think that had happened.

And all that is why the truth no longer matters. Until
recently I tried to not actually lie when Mom heads back into her dementia
reality. I skirted the truth and did my best to avoid responding directly when
Mom talked about going to see her mother. I could distract her by talking about
birds or the grandkids. But things have gotten worse now. I don’t think she
knows she has grandchildren. And what a terrible loss that is. It makes me
sad to think about it. Even sadder than when she says I’m her aunt or her
sister-in-law. To lose your family seems the worst.
But then she hasn’t lost her beginning family. She went to
the grocery store with her mother just this morning and should have helped her
more. All the “others” will be here any time now and we might need to cook
extra for them. Or when did they all leave? And why didn’t they let her ride
home with them?
The truth of all the “others” having long ago left her and
moved on up to heaven does nothing but make her very sad for about five
minutes. Then she forgets that you’ve told her that and starts asking where the
“others” are all over again. Truth doesn’t matter. And so I’ve stopped telling
the truth in plain words. Now I say that they’ve already gone home. I don’t
have to add that home is heaven. I say maybe Dad is playing horseshoes. He
could be, couldn’t he? I say they’ll all be waiting to see her tomorrow and
then when tomorrow comes the tomorrow after that.  I say it’s too dark to go anywhere. I say
that everybody will be settled in wherever they are. I don’t say I saw Maggie
or whoever appears in Mom’s dementia visions. I just say she must have left
before I came. And so I lie because the truth no longer matters to my mother.
The truth is way too sad.
Thanks for reading. I promise to come up with something more
cheerful Wednesday, but I know a number of you have gone through the same things with your parents or loved ones that we’re going through with my mother.