Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Five Years

Five years ago today my mother died. Her death was slow and difficult. She had dementia, not memory loss so much as confusion and anger. For the first couple of years after she passed I struggled with grief and anger and sadness. My sister and niece and I were her caregivers, along with another woman and her daughter. I had been her caregiver in a sense ever since my dad had passed away.

Ruby, that was my mother's name, never learned to drive. I have always worked unique jobs, so I have been lucky to have flexible hours in almost everything I have ever done. I was pretty much Ruby's driver. We did our grocery shopping together, our Christmas shopping together, I took her to most of her doctor's appointments, the hairdresser, etc. When she was eighty she had a heart attack. I was working in Dallas at the time.The attack had started the morning of the day I was coming home and she tried her best to wait on me so I could take her to the hospital. Sometime during the day, she realized that was not going to be an option so she called my sister-in-law who called the paramedics. When I got home from the airport around midnight that night, my husband and nephews told me what had happened.

Not long after that I quit my job and began what would eventually be my role as her caregiver.
I saw the symptoms of dementia before other family members did. They just thought it was old age, but I could see things taking place in my mother that went way beyond the aging process.

Her disease tore our family apart. For months before she died, I prayed for a miracle. That the disease would go away and our family would reunite before she passed. She became paranoid, mean and vicious and though, there was a part of me that knew it was the illness, it almost destroyed me too. For the last couple of years that she lived, almost daily I heard how ugly, how fat and how horrible I was. There were times she hit and screamed, and no matter how much logic, how much I told myself it was the illness, deep down inside there was a piece of me that believed what she said, because after all, she was my mother.

So here it is five years later, I still have nightmares about the day she died, I still miss her.
Our family, well nothing is the same, though many people have told me that after both parents die, that is usually the way it goes. I keep thinking I should write more about care giving for those of you who may be taking care of some one with dementia. I cried so many tears, and at times, begged God to let me die, that I just couldn't go on. I think that just this past year I have begun to regain myself. There for a while I was the walking dead, first physically exhausted, then emotionally drained, and then for the past couple of years, I couldn't remember who Jilda was. I lost all sense of self, starting with the outward appearance and thinking that I had become invisible.

My sense of renewal has continued, it really started in the spring, the turnaround. Everyday since, little by little I have reclaimed Jilda. I had always had a great sense of style, and I think that is back, my weight has leveled out, I look in the mirror now and I recognize ME!
It has been a very long five years. Today I still grieve for my mom, I miss her most during the holidays. I realized after she became sick that I had never been Christmas shopping without her. That is when I started shopping on line.

So, for those of you who may be existing in that strange limbo of hell right now, feel free to write me, find someone to talk with, and don't forget yourself. Once you lose yourself, it is very hard to find your way back.......I was lucky it only took five years, for some they never make it back.


  1. My God Jilda, I don't know how you did that. I love my mother and plan to look after her, but if she yelled at me every day and called me names, I doubt I could do it. I admire your kindness and endurance. You did an amazing thing and I am glad you feel so much better about yourself.

  2. Oh Jilda, I can't finish reading. My eyes are too wet right now.

  3. You are a strong woman Jilda.

    I could write a story about my mom. After she died in 1998 my sister and I didn't talk over twelve years and even today I can only keep in touch with her via e.mail.

    Grieving after all this time is a sign of respect and you are better for it.