Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Different Kind of Family Togetherness

As you all were sleeping peacefully in your beds overnight, my younger brother and I were being entertained by our mother as we helped her stay up for a special kind of medical test that will take place first thing in the morning. A few months ago, while on a family trip, Mom began having seizures. This unexpected and sudden turn of events has been scary and gut wrenching but as I’m writing this at 2:00 in the morning, I find that this issue does, at times, bring us together in profound and wondrous ways.
Gary and I arrived at our parents yesterday evening by 8pm. Dad was already asleep in the recliner and Mom was showered and ready for bed. We had prepared her, in advance, to go to bed early so that we could wake her up at midnight, which is a requirement for her test. She’s having what’s called a sleep deprived EEG. Since sleep deprivation can be a seizure trigger, the idea is that if they can, the docs want to trigger a seizure so that they can see what’s happening in her brain. Mom has tested negative for all the normal causes for seizures so this is one other way to try to diagnose what’s going on.

bingo basket
Despite the seriousness of this medical issue, there have been many funny moments in all of this. At her first Neuro appointment, the doctor explained that he wanted to “irritate her brain” to which Mom replied, “So when do I have my meanness test?” Now this may sound like a joke, but Mom was serious! If you’ve read any posts about my mother, you’ll remember that she was diagnosed with dementia a few months ago. She’s fully aware that she suffers from this illness and understands that she doesn’t remember things like she used to. We treat her with kindness and understanding and she seems very comfortable discussing it with us. But it is often funny when Mom is speaking on the phone to a relative and turns to me and says. “Denise, I need to tell Brian (another brother) when my meanness test takes place!” It’s so matter of fact and endearing that you can’t help but chuckle. In part of her life, there’s a certain kind of naiveté and innocence that surrounds my mother; it truly is very special.

Coffee and bingo

We’ve spent the last two hours playing bingo with Mom; my brother joking about what a loser I am and me telling him (good naturedly) to shut up. All the while she is telling us not to fight. We sing along to Barry White’s “You’re My First, the Last, My Everything” and The Monkey’s “I’m a Believer” on Pandora. Mom, who has never had to stay up all night, is alert and happy as she peers through her magnifying glass (she also has macular degeneration) at her bingo card, finding matches to the numbers called out by my brother and me. My comedian of a brother accuses her of cheating and trying to make us both look bad after she wins game after game. Between hands, Mom regales us with stories from her college years and reminds us that she’s a “Wahoo” because she graduated from Mary Washington, which was the women’s annex of the University of Virginia (this is actually true in that in the 1940s, women were not admitted to UVA as undergrads and Mary Washington was affiliated with UVA and was where women attended). We’ve heard these stories many times but they always seem fresh as Mom adds details that may or may not be part of her past. Everyone takes it in stride.

Mom and Gary Mom and Gary at 2:30 this morning. Mom says she’s #1!

By 2:30am, Mom and Gary had switched to rummy. I chuckled as Gary accused Mom of cheating because she was literally making up rules as she went! Gary reminded Mom that she taught him how to play and these were her rules. She adamantly told him that no, she never taught him that and she wasn’t about to play that way. The three of us laughed when she later admitted that having dementia is a convenient way to change things to her advantage. Throughout the game, Gary called out, “She’s cheating again!” and the game continued.

As difficult as her condition is for the family and for Mom especially, I treasure the time that I get to spend with my brother and Mom. I know that I’ll look back on these days and will laugh until I cry. We are truly making great memories!