Forgotten Relationships

I took mom out to dinner last night. As we were driving, we passed the place where our wedding was held, and where we had our kid’s B’nai Mitzvah party. It is a landmark building with very distinctive architecture, and lots of family memories. We had been there with her many times. As we passed it, I pointed it out to her. She had no recollection of ever being there. That was sad.

But the question she asked was even sadder. When I told her our wedding was there, she asked me if we had a lot of people at the wedding. I told her yes, and reminded her she was also at the wedding. She looked very puzzled, and asked why she would be at my wedding. I told her… “You were there because you are my mother. You were there with Russell, my dad and your husband”. It just didn’t register.

The conversation confirmed what I have suspected, that personal relationships no longer have any meaning. My brother calls her everyday. She was talking to him while I was with her the other day. When she hung up, she said to me “He is such as nice guy. He calls me everyday”. It seemed like a strange way to refer to her own son. I asked her if she knew who he was. She couldn’t answer that question. I realized that she recognized his voice, and that he was someone she talked to, but she just didn’t know why he called her every day.

So my brother is just a “Nice Guy”. And she has no recollection of who Russell was. When she sees his picture in a family photo, she knows he is someone who was a part of her life, but she does not remember how. My wife and I call her Mom, and the kids call her Grandma. To us those are descriptions of our relationship. To her, they are just names. They are special names that only we use, but just names nonetheless.

When she was first diagnosed with dementia, my daughter cried. She was afraid grandma would forget her. At the time, it seemed like such a distant prospect. But now, as the disease progresses, I can see how that will happen at some point. I feel like we are now entering the slide down. I understand that each case is different, and that there is no way for the doctor to give us a time frame. The important thing is that we stay as close as possible, and prepare ourselves for that inevitable day when she completely forgets who we are. It could be years away, or it could just happen suddenly. No one knows.