This is the latest entry in a continuing series called
Through My Caregiver Eyes.
The full story can be found under the label "Through My Caregiver Eyes."
(Label Section to the right of my blog posts.)
My mom is 87 years old and is in Assisted Living.
The rocky path from independence to living with me and finally to Assisted Living
is documented in this series.
While our journey together is peppered with joy-filled moments,
it is mostly losses for her and sadness for me.
For those of you who are caregivers of elderly loved ones,
you may see yourself in my story.
Memories are intangible things that can make life worth living, and at other times, sad to recall. Memories can fade and be lost, and in the elderly, sometimes the loss is permanent. I believe it is the loss of memories that is the cruelest loss of all in aging.
I got the idea to recover some of mom's happy memories by bringing one of her travel albums with me on a recent visit. The album I selected was from May 1990 when she traveled in Europe. It was filled her typed and handwritten notes of scenes and the people pictured. I thought she had done an excellent job of documenting the trip and it might be fun for her to see it again.
She was initially happy to see the book - recognized the cover right away. She seemed surprised to see her own handwriting - recognized it as hers - she said it looked like my handwriting. I guess it does.
It made me happy to watch her page slowly through the book. She was quiet, however, and did not make many comments. I asked if she recognized any of the places and people. She said, "some" ... and that was all. It was the first sign that maybe some memories of this happy time were lost. I felt a little saddness at that thought.
At times a small smile graced her lips - I assumed she recognized a scene or a person - maybe one of the pictures prompted another memory. She did mention the name of the man who led the tours - so she did seem to connect with the images.
Then she suddenly turned to me and said, "This is your book, right? There are some nice pictures of you in here." No ... no pictures of me. The book was entirely of her travels. Later it occurred to me that she was seeing pictures of a much younger self. We are always told how much we look alike. I guess she got confused. Another little red flag on memory lane.
She reached the end and closed the book, leaning back in her chair and closing her eyes. After a bit she mentioned that she did travel a lot at one time. But 1990 was a very long time ago. The comment seemed like simple confirmation of what the book represented. She sat quitely some time.
It was hard to tell how these pictures impacted her. Did they make her sad at the passage of so much time? Did it confirm that some of her memories were lost because she couldn't recognize some of the images from her book? Was she just reflective? I will never know because mom finds it hard to put her thoughts and feelings into words at this point.
I hoped she would keep the book with her for a few days to enjoy and remember. But she clearly wanted me to take the book back home that day. She said she was glad that I brought it, but she would not keep it with her.
My heart hoped she had a few moments of happiness paging through the photo album. But the small voice of my mind wonders if these pictures had another unpredictable outcome.
Memories are fragile things.
Handle with care.
Handle with care.
Daughter and Caregiver