As I walk into the nursing center every day to visit mom ... (and it has been about 10 days now) ... I can never predict how the visit will go. The face of my mother seems little different each day since the hospitalization.
Sometimes it is her contented face I see - happy to see me and other residents. She gives a brilliant smile to everyone who addresses her. At other times it is her sleepy face - asleep in her wheel chair for most of the visit. She expresses no interest in her surroundings, no desire to eat, and only wants to nap.
Today another face greeted me. She had rolled herself up to the nursing station and appeared to be looking around. She recognized me as I approached, but the look was that of inquiry. "Where were you?" "I am ready to go home now." "I think we need to go back home today." "It is time go to see Walter." (Walter is her brother who lives in New York. She hasn't seen him for longer than I can remember.)
The focus today was "home." It entered most of our conversations. "Home" sometimes means her room - but not today. "Home" might have been her assisted living bedroom or it might even have been my "home." Regardless - the only home she has now is her nursing home room - and that definitely was not where she wanted to go today.
She was restless and irritable as the visit progressed. At one point she stopped and looked around asking for me or my sister. She wanted to know if we were still here. I was sitting right in front of her. She asked about home again. She understood that she could not stand now without assistance from 2 people - but she couldn't make the logical leap to understand that her limitations made this environment the only choice for now.
It was a hard day.
And so I suspect I am seeing the many one-dimensional faces of advancing dementia - unfamiliar faces that are rising to the surface as we discover what mom's new normal is. And it is very apparent that she has both a new lower norm physically and mentally.
I miss the familiar face of the woman who raised me. She was interested in her surroundings and the activities of her friends and family. She was consistently friendly even when she was having a bad day. She'd occasionally ask if she could go home - but she followed the logic that my house had too many steps - that her wheel chair would not work there - and she was safer in Assisted Living. She had a multi-dimensional personality - even as she continued to decline.
I miss that woman more than I can express.
I fear that familiar face will not show itself again.
The losses never seem to end.
But I am thankful she is still in this life with me - no matter what face she is showing. I know our days together grow few. I will love all those unfamiliar faces that rise to the surface now - even the difficult ones ...
... because someday I might not even have those.