Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How is the brain working?

She follows me around, my little shadow, trying to do the right thing, although she is unclear what to do.
She is my little friend, just wanting to be with me.
She is at my elbow in the kitchen, hovering, as I make dinner for us.

I say, affectionately, "Would you like to set the table?"
"Oh, yes! What does it need?"
"Well, let's look. What do you see? What is missing? What goes on each placemat?"
She looks at me, unsure.
"How about plates?," I suggest.
"Oh, yes!" and then she opens the wrong cabinet. Not the plates.
"Try the next one," I nudge.
She sees the plates and pronounces the stack "Too heavy!"
I suggest she take them down one at a time.
She likes this idea and cautiously takes them down one at a time, placing them on the counter top.

I find it interesting that she doesn't move them directly from the cabinet to the table, but has introduced this intermediate step.
I find it interesting how her brain works.

She puts one plate on each of the four placemats. She stops there, not remembering anything else to do.
I gently remind her about napkins.
She quickly goes to the napkin holder, where there are only three left.
"How many more do we need?" I ask.
"I don't know," she says.
"Well, there are four of us, and three napkins...we need how many more?," I nudge.

She waits for me to tell her the answer.
Instead, I say, "Let's figure this out. Why not put one napkin at each plate?" I suggest.

She walks around the table, happily placing one napkin at each dinner plate and sees the answer - "One!" she exclaims, "We need one more napkin!" She is very happy that she has figured this out. I hand her another napkin from the extra stack. "Nicely done!," I say with a smile.

A small child.

Ah, but she is 82. She is my Mom. She has dementia.

My school year ended and I was unexpectedly called to help in South Carolina...I've spent the last 10 days taking care of my Mom while my dad made an emergency trip. (His 99 year old mother - my grandmother - was dying.)

There are such similarities between small children and senile adults. I am so thankful for my early childhood training and its gift of perspective - being able to see how hard my Mom was working to accomplish each and every task.

I am so thankful for this gift of time with my Mom, painfully aware that her memory is fleeting - she will never know me as well again.

Deep cleansing breath...