I’ve lied to my mother all my life.
As a teenager, it was all about the party.
“Can I borrow the car? My friends want to see the new Superman movie.”
(We’re going to the kegger at Barrett’s Beach)
“We’re going on a field trip at school.”
(It’s senior skip day)
Through much of my adult life, the lies were silent whispers, shrouded in alcohol.
Today I am sober. I care for a mother with Alzheimer’s, in a world of falsehoods and misperceptions.
“We’re going to Arizona for a while so I can take care of my husband.”
(You need more help than I can give. The memory care home is safe.)
“I’m so glad you’re here to help me take care of my husband.”
(His imaginary illness reminds you you’re needed and helpful).
Therapeutic lies have become our reality. Yet my decisions—once based on self—are now motivated by love. And, as every medallion marking another sobriety milestone tells me: “To thine own self be true,” I find that I am.
Here’s why experts recommend lying to someone with dementia.
I’m at the grocery store, navigating through the chaos of an afternoon before Mother’s Day: more floral arrangements than a funeral home, enough pink balloons to supply a dozen nine-year-olds’ birthday parties, greeting card racks laden with glittery sentiment, chocolate-covered strawberry display that engulfs half the produce aisle. Men and women surround me, their shopping carts loaded with sacrificial offerings to place upon the altars of the women who brought them into this world.
My own offering is modest. A small yellow orchid, beribboned in pink, to pin to her blouse. Two cookies, pink and blue icing stating “I Love you, Mom” and “Happy Mother’s Day.” A card for her collection, one of the few things she’s managed not to lose or throw out.
I will not feel guilty that I did not get her more. Last year, the rose bouquet was overturned not long after I presented it, glass shards to clean up, flowers forgotten moments later.
I will not feel guilty that I choose to take her to the special brunch in the dining room of her memory care community. Last year, the silverware at her favorite restaurant became frightening, napkins mistaken for toast.
I will not feel guilty that she lives in a memory care community. I took care of her with love and compassion for the three years I was her sole caregiver.
I will not feel guilty because I do not visit her every day. Every time I visit, our time together is special.
And I will not feel guilty because she’s already forgotten the memories from moments ago, last week, my childhood.
I am a mother to my mother and I love her unconditionally. For us, every day is Mother’s Day.
#2 in a Series on Purpose
Purpose: the essential ingredient for a meaningful life. For years, it’s seemed out of reach.
In a sales career spanning a quarter-century, my purpose was straightforward yet unfulfilling: make your numbers, get your bonus. My wallet was full but I struggled with an empty soul.
Life changed radically when I left that job to become my mother’s full-time caregiver five years ago. I spent much of that time wallowing in martyrdom and resentment, my purpose unfathomable.
But purpose, like life, evolves with clarity. And as I’ve learned in sobriety, helping others is a reward in itself. So I launch a support group for daughters caring for aging parents. Channel a long-time passion for writing into a flash blog and caregiving articles. Transform my love of animals into enrichment programs at a local shelter and a petsitting business. And continue to support my husband as he deals with the sudden loss of his only child.
Age grants us wrinkles and wisdom and this I now know: purpose is found when you least seek it.