The Way Out … A study of dementia

The Way Out

The stormy beach which is her fuddled brain locked within a crumbling shell, whips up fragments of memory tossed and scattered by crested waves of nostalgia, pain, sorrow, tangled with glimpses of delight — fragments lit by sudden rays of sunnier days. Salty tang with rotting debris, musty fungi, colliding with sweet rose petals, the joy of love, lavender, baby talc. Sounds rush and collide: screaming winds battle against joyful laughter and peaceful sighs.

She sees, smells , hears and touches these things. Or, rather they grip her. There is no escape, there is no way out.

I curl my arm around her shoulders.

She looks at me, her brow wrinkling.

“I’m Jenny,” I say, smiling reassurance.

“No you’re not, I want Jenny. She never comes to see me.”

I force back my tears. “I’m here, Mum. I’m your Jenny.”

“No you’re not.” She points to the television — a mere background noise and moving parts within the dementia ward. “That’s Jenny, getting on that plane. She won’t get far. She stole the Crown Jewels.”

I kiss her cheek and rise from my chair. “Goodbye, Mum. I’ll come again tomorrow.”

She clutches at my arm. “They’re coming for me tonight,” she mumbles, terror burning from unblinking eyes.
I sit down again. “Who are coming for you?”
“They are. They’re going to hold me ransom.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll pay it.”
“You won’t have enough money.”
“Then we’ll sell the house.”
“No good, they want my leg.”
Part of me wants to laugh but most of me demands to weep. It is always the same, my mother ‘s brain traps her in impossible situations from which there is no exit. Her money is counterfeit, she has stolen things and the police are after her. The police are coming to take her away. They are coming in the night to torture her and no one will be able to stop them. She never complains of physical pain. Not even a fractured leg, nor her weeping feet and ankles can break into her true consciousness,

She trembles with dread as she tells me that she is going to burn in hell. But my poor mother IS in hell and there is no way out…

Each visit is the same, until…

She lies wearily in her bed, a virus having weakened her body. Amazingly the storm has abated. After some time I kiss her cheek. “Goodnight, Mother, I’ll see you in the morning.”
.She whispers, “Goodnight, Luvvy.” Her wonderful last words full of recognition — I am again her Luvvy!
Death is a kind of healing.

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