Thursday, March 19, 2015
That particular trip with my mother to the neurologist was a little more than a year ago. Cut to the chase: I'm sitting in the doctor's office with my mom, and she looks me in the eyes and says, "What's your name?"
I did not cry then. I think I smiled kindly and answered her. Some watershed moments are so dreadful. Whether it was a watershed moment or not, I have interpreted it that way. And I remember being stoical that day. All day.
Sometime later that night, I was sobbing and sobbing and sobbing in some corner of the house. My wailing noise was drowned out by the washer or dryer or a thunderstorm or something. I remember being so utterly relieved that some other noise was covering mine up.
I had essentially become the emotional and moral manager of my family of origin. A fog set in. I have shed only a few tears since then. There's a kind of numbness most days.
I stopped writing much for this blog. I have been preoccupied with the care-giving and care-taking. My thoughts have been, "This can't be happening. This is happening. What do I do? This isn't happening. What do I do? What do I do?"
The cast of blog characters (actually real, interesting, wonderful people) certainly remained on my radar, and I would read through the blog regularly just to see what they were doing and saying.
My mother is still a dear, kind woman with so much determination to move forward. She really is. And I love her so much.
So one of the questions on my mind has been this: If I can no longer even get my mother to remember where the bathroom is, then why do so many of those administrators truly seem to think that I can make all my students wiser? After all, I don't love them nearly as much as I love my mom. I cannot be as committed to them. And, frankly, she still has more energy and drive than so many of my students. But the brain is what it is--for Mom or for my students. For her, we use the word "Alzheimer's" and we accept that. Yet we can and should and must push the students and get them to "succeed"--as if they, too, are not limited by their own brains?
I'm oversimplifying, because I'm tired. But that's the heart of what I feel.
So here's the deal: We've had this great opportunity to use the blog to pursue the truth through our various crazzzy ways. We've tolerated each others' opinions and explorations. We've deliberately refused to be gaslighted by the "best practices" and the newest, shiniest technologies to improve "student success."
It's like Stendhal said: "Almost all our misfortunes in life come from the wrong notions we have about the things that happen to us.... To judge events sanely, is, therefore, a great step towards happiness."
"Sanely" is a bit of a stretch for some of us sometimes. But some crazzy kind of sanity is what we have here at this blog. We escape the wrong notions of the too-often pathological higher education community. We've had compassion and decent moderators and open-mindedness and some other good stuff--and I am happier because of y'all.
As long as the blog endures, I'll keep coming back to read. It does make me happier and helps me to keep my sanity. Thank you. There is something to be said for bourbon, virtue, poetry, truth, and such things that those old French artists embraced. Thank you. And when the lights go out, then so it will go. I will remember it (mostly) fondly. Until I don't.
Thank you all.
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Southern Bubba, thanks for posting. I was very touched. You and your mom are in my prayers. All the best.ReplyDelete
I understand, my Mom is heading in the same direction, but she's 500 miles away... oyeReplyDelete
Well said, Bubba. It's great to hear from you. And I'm very sorry to hear about your mom. Alzheimer's sucks; that's really all there is to say about it.ReplyDelete
Bubba, we'll keep fighting the good fight here, while you're doing the same where you are. I send you all good vibes, insufficient as they are.ReplyDelete
Sorry Bubba. I wish I had something more to say, but having parents getting old just sucks....ReplyDelete
We're with you Bubba.ReplyDelete
Bubba, that was ... jeez it is hard to describe properly where it'll do it justice. I hope your travels down this road are as best as can be hoped for.ReplyDelete
Remember to take care of yourself, without whom all that other caretaking can't get done at all.
I'm sorry this is happening, Bubba. My Dad had Alzheimer’s, and coping with it was hard. It helped my Mom and me to have someone to talk to about it, to remind us that we weren't alone. It’s much like how CM helps faculty to know that they aren't alone. I therefore recommend you seek out an Alzheimer’s support group.ReplyDelete
At least you've faced the problem squarely and honestly. That alone isn’t easy. For many months my Mom and I made things worse, by not accepting the diagnosis. Like many Alzheimer’s patients, my Dad had good days and bad days. Savor the good days, but don’t rationalize like I did, by remarking on one good day, “Oh look! He fixed a chair! He can’t have Alzheimer’s, since he doesn’t show the symptoms!” I stopped this on the day Dad clearly showed that quintessential symptom: when my sister, his daughter, came for a visit, and he asked us, “Who’s that woman?”
I am also a whole lot more sympathetic to your Mom than your students. They have a choice: she doesn’t.
Bubba, I had been wondering what happened to you. Towards the end of your regular commenting, you were getting pretty dark -- even for your persona. So sorry to hear about your struggles with your mom.ReplyDelete
I too have helped and been overwhelmed by elders with dementia. It was so much easier to be patient with my in-laws (truly my family of choice) than with some of my students. I wished I could shake them and say, "Wake up! Do you have any idea what you're squandering? "
But other students proved remarkably kind when I lost it in class one day. I said something that reminded me of "Mom" and suddenly couldn't speak. Then I choked out, "Sorry, someone I love is dying." And immediately felt shame for having blurted something so personal and inappropriate. But in that moment my students were there for me. "Take your time" -- the kindest words on earth. And suddenly we were all just fellow humans. They didn't read any better or work any harder after that, but at that point I didn't care. It was liberating to not have to care. Work became a refuge from having to care. We got through the semester. They took their lumps. May your students be as humane, and may you let them in a little. It can help.
The other revelation was how dementia can strip someone to the core of their being. Your mother, Bubba? "Still a dear, kind woman with so much determination to move forward." My heart breaks for you.