My mom hit her caregiver again today. She has been on a downward slide for some time now. All her family and friends have been, at some point, startled, angered or embarrassed by her behavior in recent years. Sometimes we understand, sometimes we snicker and sometimes we take some refuge in the fact that she has been diagnosed with Dementia, as her mother was before her. We can find cold comfort in thinking, this is not her, this is the disease. This isn't the person we worked with, traveled with or lived with. This is some strange creation of chromosomes and modern medicine. It’s easier if there’s an explanation. It’s easier if we can blame someone. It’s easier if we can blame her. She must have had some flaw in her character that brought this out, that amplified this personality trait. This won’t happen to us. We’re better than that. We are safe from this humiliation. That’s her not us.
But we forget. We are all flawed. In every being lie the seeds of its own demise. Behind all our brave words, fancy clothes and brash attitudes are studies of imperfection. We are all fractured. We are all broken. There’s not a person putting eyes on this screen that has not stood in front of the mirror while filled with sheer horror and contempt with what they see. We look at the reflection and are petrified that our secret will get out, that the facade will crumble and our well constructed defense will yield. Our ignorance, insecurities and inabilities will be revealed. We fight it like she does. She is, deep down, scared to death. The recipients of her rage are, of course, those closest to her and trying to help her the most. The truly indifferent are far from the experience of enduring this tragedy.
I am a horrible son. I avoid her calls and only visit when I must. I’ll ask her what she had for lunch, not being able to think of anything else to say. She’ll cover the weather report right off the bat and then drift off. I have some clue as to what she’s talking about after hearing reports from nurses and social workers. I resent the person who has taken over the slight body of a once towering woman. I am repulsed by her meanness and pettiness. I want to remember the young mother who dried the tears of an often teased little boy. I can see the successful business woman who paid way too much for her son’s paintings and filled out his applications for art fairs. I can hear the distant voice that told each of her children that they were her favorite and they all had something more special in them than anyone else in the world.
There is no rebirth or restoration this spring. There is only one way this pain will end. We all know it and even hope for it, if we don't wish to say it out loud. We can overlook this evil in our hearts, for we know that we are merely tissue and cartilage. We are all vulnerable to dark thoughts and we can't repel what we can't see. We are all conflicted deep inside, and we are all broken.