Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Blues

I hate the holidays.  It was not always like this, but for the past few years, I have come to detest this time of year.

Yesterday I took my mother shopping, and for the first hour and a half, it was a relatively drama-free experience.  That was, until she got impatient with the cashier in Williams Sonoma because she did not hear the amount correctly.  And then she got annoyed with me in Macy’s for telling her how to pay for an item.  Then she got short with me during lunch.  Then she was rude to a woman in the Nordstrom bathroom.  Then she yelled at me and insisted that we had not just spent the last two hours at the mall doing any of her Christmas shopping.
How am I supposed to handle these situations? 
Well, for the second time in a matter of days, I let her have it.  I asked her why she had to get mad about everything, even after having a good time.  Then she responded with a litany from her bag of tricks: her stomach hurt so she was in no mood to talk; I am such a know-it-all; she just wanted to be left alone; just take her home; etc.  And I decided to pull out a few rabbits of my own: were you sick before or after we ate lunch; how am I being a know-it-all; what did I say that made you mad; and do you plan to lock me out of the house and claim not to recognize me like you did before; etc.
She yelled louder and flashed her rage face, and after taking the Lord’s name in vain a few times, I calmed down and told her that since she was trapped in my car she did not have to talk, but she did have to listen.  And then I gave her the I-love-you-no-matter-what-you-do-or-say speech.  It worked for the next hour.
And while none of this has anything to do with Christmas because this scenario just as likely to reoccur in April or August, I first became acquainted with that rage face at our ruined Christmas Eve dinner from last year when she baited me into an unnecessary argument.  At issue then was her offense that I had taken over things while she had been out all day shopping.  How dare I provide the family with a meal without her approval!

Perhaps Christmas has become the embodiment of what I hate about this entire situation—no matter what I do, it will never make her happy...or better.  My mother will still be unpredictable from hour to hour and I am the person whose existence she loathes the most.  I could devise a way to make Christmas perfect and she would find a way to hate me.  I take her shopping and she finds a reason to hate me.  She hates how I drive.  She always finds a way to call me fat.  She criticizes my breathing. 
She will find a way to make me feel like that six-year old who never wanted anything more than to be loved but no matter what I did, there was always some negative response.  Her dementia is just another way for her to torment me.
And so I hate Christmas.  More accurately, I hate my mother at Christmas. 
Of course I don’t really feel this way, but my mother could be cruel without the excuse of a debilitating mind-altering illness.  But now that I have turned to blogging as therapy, I need to be honest.  I need to say it all, even if it does nothing to relieve the guilt I carry around for even harboring these awful feelings.  She is my mother.  And in spite of this current ring of hell she is currently putting me through, I would rather endure her daily unnecessary tantrums than mourn day when she is no longer here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Over at the Busy Black Woman blog, I wrote a couple of pieces about how certain recent changes in my personal life had kept me from keeping up with the blog.  And I promised that I would talk more openly and candidly about those changes here...

But first I need to mention that I just had a birthday, and I attribute some of these changes to the reality of getting older.  For the record (so that there is no doubt), I am ok with aging.  Not only do I prefer it to the alternative, but I appreciate the fact that if I live long enough, I might might actually become that fabulous person of my daydreams.

So here goes: the other changes in my life are due to my mother's recent diagnosis of dementia.  She is 64 years old, which puts her in the category of early-onset.  And since the fateful day when her diagnosis was confirmed, she has been driving me crazy.  Correction: this situation has been driving me crazy!  Between her daily drama, my family, my past-due student loan bills, and all of my Busy Black Woman ways, I have been dancing on the head of a pin.

Since her diagnosis, my life has not only changed, but it feels as if it came to a screeching halt.  I am not so sure how true that is for everyone else in my family...and though I am not suggesting that they are unphased or unaffected, I would say that I have made things easier for them (but that is a rant for another day). 

In the meantime, I have more pressing concerns.  Because we have an incomplete diagnosis, I am unsure if my Mom has Alzheimer's or some other specific form of dementia.  And so that means that we are in a holding pattern of sorts wherein nothing is certain except that she is not the person she was when this all started back in 2009 after an argument over a cake.

Yes, a stupid cake.  And that story will also have to wait for another day to be fully told. 

I have so many stories, and that is why I decided that my saving grace will be blogging.  I have few other options for expressing myself short of taking up some really self-destructive bad habit like smoking crack.  And I mean that because there are days such as the other day when she got mad at me over something trivial and I was tempted to put her out of my car.

This has been the hardest challenge of my life, replacing law school by light years.  If I were in law school right now, I might still be as clueless as I was at the end of that first semester so many years ago, but at least I knew that there was a point to my misery. 

Unfortunately, I do not see any point in this.  If this is God's way of testing me for something great, then I've already failed.  I am angry, frustrated, depressed, exhausted, and just about defeated by this.  But then I remind myself that I survived law school, I survived working for those bosses from hell, and I have survived most of the other challenges I've had to face. 

So a periodic series in this blog will be the Dementia Diaries.  In these posts, I hope to offer some perspective on the disease that has been taking my mother away from me.  I will express my frustrations, my fears, my anxieties and everything else that has become a part of my life since September.  I promise not to make that the sole focus of this blog, but it will become a key feature as I come to grips with my new reality.