Sunday, October 23, 2005

Why Aren't You Here?

"Emily, why aren't you here? I'm waiting for you to take me to church."
The cell phone call interrupted Emily's Sunday morning.
"I came to see you yesterday, Mom," Emily said. "I'm not coming today. Arlene is with you today."
Emily and Duncan are pastors. Their busiest time is Sunday morning, and phone calls at that time are forbidden. But I was out of town, and Mom was with a caregiver, refusing to believe that neither I nor Emily would show up.
After a while she called me, at the steering wheel driving down Interstate 5 toward Los Angeles. At lunch I returned her call. "I'm on my way back, Mom."
She launched into her report on calling Emily. It was just like the Sunday two weeks ago when I was out of town: Mom resorted to phone calls to assert her presence and try to elicit a response from someone.
"I'll be back tonight, late, after you are asleep. I'll see you tomorrow."
"No, come tonight. I'll still be awake."
So I did go to see her at 7 pm before arriving home. She was fine, snuggled up under a velour blanket in her recliner, watching television. I talked with her and the caregiver, Racquel. I showed Mom trinkets from my trip and cut up pieces of fudge for her, bought at a restaurant and gift shop near Hanford.
Later I learned she had continued calling Emily throughout the day, either unable or unwilling to understand that Emily wasn't coming.
Is this dementia?
Or is this her normal, controlling personality coming through loud and clear?
She still manages to manipulate me and Emily into feeling guilty and doing most of what she wants done. That was true twenty years ago and is still true today.
Maybe she's not the crazy one--we are.

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