Thursday, September 20, 2007

If Memory Serves....

What it is about the brain that allows memories from the past to shine through crisply, brought into the present moment by a visual reminder such as driving by the location where something occurred years ago and suddenly having a clear memory of the event? What is it about her brain in particular that summons these older memories so accurately and yet cannot imprint and hold onto a simple schedule, appointment date/time, or when and how to take medications? The dichotomy is striking to me as I live through these days with Mom who becomes more impaired by her lack of short term memory daily. As frustrating as it is for me to go over the same information again and again, it must be worse for her as she acknowledges that her mind is slipping.

The other day as Mom and I drove downtown for her doctor’s appointment, we passed by the jewelry store where at Christmas time 1991, she, Dad, and I walked in and had them repair the band on one of my rings. I remember this because it was cold and dark at 4:30 PM when we walked into the store after a hectic drive through December traffic. The bent metal shank of the ring was quickly repaired. Mom remembered this clearly too; the ring in question was originally hers, given to her by a beau (well before Dad) and then given to me as a teenager. She recalled this memory easily. Then, on the way back from the doctor’s appointment we were headed north on 4th Avenue and passed by a Thai restaurant she had been in only once before. She reminded me that she, Dad, and I had eaten there with an out of town visitor from Michigan five or six years ago. She was right again. The memories are clean.

But in the present moment, her mind is bound up in anxiety and confusion. As an example; she goes to Trina’s salon for a wash and set weekly although the date and time changes depending on my schedule. This week the appointment was for Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 PM. I told her and I wrote it on both the calendar on the refrigerator and on the dry erase board next to their door: “Trina 4:30 PM, pick up at 4 PM”. I also reminded her of it again in the morning when we chatted on the phone. However, at 3 PM she called me, “Aren’t you coming for me?” I couldn’t resist. I directed her to the wall board reminder…..”What does it say?” I asked. She said “Trina 4:30 PM, pick up at 4 PM. Sorry. I’m so sorry to bother you.” And then, I felt badly. But, it’s just so hard and there is nothing I do that seems to make her appointments less stressful. Even the reminders by phone or the written words on the wall board; they just don’t make the difference.

I am trying to accept this as the “new Mom” but it is difficult. She is a woman who has always been on the ball, one step ahead of the rest of us, organized, precise, and the accurate keeper of details, especially dates and times. I will take a deep breath and love her for the way she is and the way she was. She is my Mother.

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