“What’s up mom?” Tana smiled and looked at her.
She smiled and responded, “I’ve just finished my evening prayers.”
“Good, let’s prepare dinner, come help me.”
Her mother looked at her and responded, “I’ve kept the rice in the microwave oven.”
Tana was about to shout out as she did a year ago, “Mom! What the hell? It should be in the rice cooker!”
She controlled herself now, took a deep breath and reflected.
A year ago, Tana had accompanied her mother to a neurologist. He had suggested after the check-ups that she was suffering from the initial stages of dementia. From then on it had been a roller coaster ride, running from one specialist to another, from a geriatrician to a psychologist. Slowly the condition aggravated from forgetting small things of the recent past to major occurrences.
Tana did not allow her pent-up tension and agony to reflect on her face. Calmly, she had her dinner observing her mother eating with trembling hands and dropping all over.
The follow up with the physicians confirmed the dreaded information. Her dementia has slowly crept into its severity; leading to Alzheimer’s Disease. Tana was on the verge of a breakdown. She gathered herself and spoke her mind aloud, “I’ve to be strong to deal with this condition, I need help, I’ve to attend the counseling sessions.”
The days followed between therapies and treatment for both mother and daughter. At the clinic one day Tana’s mother sitting beside; addressed her, “Doctor Liz, you’re not prescribing the correct medication and taking good care of me. I’m not having proper sleep at night. Your pills are not suiting me.”
The counseling sessions improved Tana’s patience and sense of responsibility. It was an eye-opener for her to deal with such nerve-wracking experiences.
On entering the house Tana was greeted by her mother, “Good Morning Alice. Please clean my room first, I need to take rest.”
She smiled and nodded, “Yes Mrs. Grey, will do”.
The reactions were in stark contrast, at times she stared at the family album with a blank look and at other instances, she suddenly reacted emotionally. The only cognition present in her mother was the sight of her grandson. It was a pleasure watching her reactions and reciprocal actions. Her face broke into a smile which later turned into a cackle, followed by incoherent speeches.
“The flowers have wilted in the garden, why didn’t you water them? Did you fill the birds’ feed? They’ll die of hunger. You’re becoming very naughty; you don’t listen to me anymore. The whole day you’re out in the sun, look how tanned and thin you’ve become.”
Tana’s eyes welled up observing her mother’s brief periods of gaiety. It was her own decision to be the caregiver in her mother’s crucial phase and not put her up in any palliative care centers.
An idea struck Tana’s mind. The evenings, she thought could be well utilized by her mother if there were social gatherings amongst amicable milieu. She planned out the events in segments for each day of the week, from children’s activities to elderly enjoyment. It worked wonders, her mother communicated with all and felt joyous. The participation in various pursuits enhanced her social and physical mobility in her familiar environment.
Time passed gradually and life followed suit. An urgent requirement forced Tana to be out of town for a couple of days. She took all the necessary precautions beforehand. The appointed nurse took charge a few days in advance, for her mother to be accustomed to her presence. Tana gulped the lump stuck in her throat on hearing her mother addressing the nurse as, “Tana.”
From the busy work schedules, Tana made a point to contact the nurse every hour and enquire about her mother. She heaved a sigh of relief for the smooth transition.
Eventually, Tana started accepting the fact that her mother’s memory of her has faded away into oblivion. She has become her mother’s physician, caregiver, home cleaner and the next-door neighbor, except her only daughter.
Back from her trip, the moment she entered the house, Tana felt something amiss. She quickly dropped her bags, called out and rushed towards her mother’s room. She was aghast at the sight and plight of all. The nurse was desperately trying to control her mother’s antics and she relented all her pursuits. The food was strewn all over, her clothes tangled all around herself. Tana squealed,
“Mom! What happened?”
With wide eyes and wailing like a child, her mother held Tana and in between bouts stammered,
“Why did you leave me and go? Where were you? I was so scared. I cannot eat without you. You don’t love me anymore, I’m sure.”
Tana’s pain and grief knew no bounds. Eyes filled to the brim she hugged and caressed her,
“Shhhh, I’m back mom, sorry, I won’t leave you again. Please calm down, I love you.”
The role reversal took place with Tana humming the lullaby which her mother sang when she was young, and her mother was lying down on the bed; resting her head on Tana’s lap. The innocent face had a serene reflection, the same as a child finds comfort in the mother’s presence.
It was like a scene from a play enacted in the house thereafter. Tana would narrate stories of fairies and ghosts while feeding her mother, dressing her up or putting her to bed.
Her mother would call out to Tana,
“Mom, I won’t have fruits today. I don’t like it. Don’t force me.”
Tana listened patiently to all the tantrums she threw, and slowly replied,
“Let us both eat the fruits together; you’ll have a piece of the peach and then I’ll take one. How about that darling?”
“You often cheat mom; I’ll be very attentive today.”
“Ok, it’s a deal, I promise, let’s start.”
The air was filled with heaviness, Tana sometimes found it hard to breathe. Surrounding her she faced similar people waiting at the clinic. She thought; a little empathy was all these people require and we’re lost in our rush hour world.
“I’ve seen the reports and would suggest that the care Mrs. Grey requires can be in the hands of professionals in the care center. We have excellent facilities all around and you can have a look and choose as you deemed fit,” the physician suggested.
Tana nodded with a heavy heart, the doctor continued, “I know it’s difficult at the beginning but you both will gradually become accustomed to the setup. Mrs. Grey requires intensive care and nurture at this stage, and as time passes and her condition advances it’ll be difficult for you to handle her at home. Think it over Tana and take care.”
At night, gently she touched her mother’s hand and spoke softly, “We’re looking for a new home. There are many people, we’ll stay with all of them. We won’t be lonely; like here. We’ll go together and visit it.”
“Would you continue to feed me, mom? I won’t take food from anyone.” The dim lights illuminated her mother’s twinkling eyes. Tana nodded and tears streamed down her eyes as she turned around to fidget with nothing.
The whole night was a mental turmoil for Tana. She prayed hard that day and asked for one small wish to be fulfilled.
“Oh God, with all my heart and soul I ask You, to let my mother live in heavenly peace. Take her now at your doorstep.”
Exactly a month later, Tana received a call from the palliative care center that her mother has passed away peacefully in her sleep last night.
Photo By: Liam Simpson
This is an entry for Greenhorns-3, #Metamorphosis, an Exclusive Writing event for the Feathers club members of room8 by ArtoonsInn.
Check the event guidelines here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/metamorphosis-greenhorns-3-writing-event/
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