“How many years have I worn this hearing aid, and this is the first time I’ve lost it?”
In truth, it is the hundredth time this year. It is one of my pitiful hobbies now- finding Mom’s hearing aid almost every time I go to her little 3 room apartment. I rarely am able to find it, either, despite turning over pillows, stripping down her bed, going through every pocket in the place, and even checking wastebaskets and Kleenex boxes. The next day, though, for awhile- maybe a day or two, it will somehow, somewhere reappear and be in her ear again. On those days, I must listen to her pleas to go the eye doctor, where we’ve been twice in the last 8 months, because her glasses (she thinks) need to be changed (they don’t).
Some days, I can sit and accept and agree and respond to her with a semblance of measured civility and concern. I do so by lying, by telling her the doctor’s appointment is next week, that I’ll be back a little later today, or that her sisters are coming for a visit. She’ll forget everything I say within an hour of my leaving anyway. She can’t turn the TV on or change channels, for diversion’s sake. I’ve tried to read to her, but even when she can hear me she is only able to comprehend 30-35% of the words. She’ll listen for a minute and then be off onto the usual, almost daily list of questions:
Is my Mom still alive? (She died 18 years ago)
How did Ike (her husband, my dad) die?
Are they going to close this place? (An assisted living home- a nice place which she enjoys, and about a three minute drive from my own home)
The same questions are asked during every visit and, usually, several more times within each visit. I write the answers down sometimes, because she can’t hear them, remember them, or understand them. Today when she started on “the list” I told her I was going to look for her hearing aid in my car, and I instead just drove away. And I feel no guilt, no shame, no regret whatsoever for doing so. I am nice to the woman in that room, and biologically- yes- she is my mother. But Mom is gone, gone.
I’m writing this all down (again) because it is, for me, like having to vomit in the middle of the night. Once it’s done, it’s usually possible to go back to sleep. I do it because a support group (which someone always recommends) provides even worse stories than these, that I can then be anticipating. And I do so because there is no greater open sore in my psyche upon which the temporary brown bliss of Jim Beam begs to be poured, than this one.
So, I’m dumping on you, whoever might read this. Thanks for listening, glad to be here, yada yada yada…